At the latest Changing Kent breakfast event, held in Commissioner’s House, Chatham Historic Dockyard, on September 24, they heard Richard Hicks talk passionately about Medway’s “amazing rich heritage.”
Medway Council’s deputy chief executive and director of regeneration, culture, environment and transformation, was one of two keynote speakers.
He joined Gavin Cleary, CEO Locate in Kent, the agency that promotes inward investment, job creation and safeguarding, in a powerful double-header that highlighted the many advantages of Medway and Kent as great business locations.
Richard spoke about Medway’s tallest Norman castle, the UK’s second oldest cathedral, best-preserved naval Dockyard, and close links with novelist Charles Dickens. “Medway has an amazing history and it’s that back story that makes a place special, gives it dynamism and fizz,” he said.
But it was not just about the past. Medway was positioning itself as the South East’s economic powerhouse. Things were changing fast, with the population expected to rise from 280,000 today to 320,000 by 2040, and planning for 30,000 new homes. “Medway is a place of massive growth.”
A successful UK City of Culture bid would be “a catalyst for further change.” He had this message for business: “It would be great to have the support of you guys. What can you do to support us? Please spread the word.”
Gavin introduced his talk by recalling that when he first came to the Dockyard “it was one of those real wow moments.” Kent and Medway have so much to offer, he said.
He singled out four priority target areas for inward investment – Creative and Digital, Food and Drink, Life Sciences, and Manufacturing.
The University for the Creative Arts, which has its campus in Medway, is number one in the sector and Medway has a growing creative hub; Kent has 2,500 food and drink producers, employing 18,000; and the South East now accounts for 12% of UK manufacturing jobs (250,000), many in the county, especially in advanced engineering.
Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne and Discovery Park, Sandwich, are world class, he said, adding that Kent was poised to join “a new golden triangle” with Cambridge and London.
Gavin also helped Guild members understand the meaning of Guanxi – Mandarin for “Connections” – and a word underlining a recent promotional business tour by 25 senior Chinese officials.
As for a potential Brexit, current funding of Ashford-based Locate in Kent via the EU European Regional Development Fund would continue until 2023, he said.
During Q&A, Guild chair David Ward asked Richard if a successful UK City of Culture bid would help Medway achieve city status, last applied for, without success, in 2012, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.
Richard said it would not automatically confer city status. But there might be another opportunity to bid. “In 2022, it will be the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and so there could be another opportunity to seek city status on that occasion.”
Article and photos by Trevor Sturgess of Editorial Services