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What role can Caerphilly play in the City Deal?

At our latest Breakfast Seminar, we were delighted to welcome Gareth Jones back to his spiritual home at Welsh ICE.

At our latest Breakfast Seminar, we were delighted to welcome Gareth Jones back to his spiritual home at Welsh ICE. Now co-founder TownSQ, Gareth was part of the steering committee to the Cardiff City Deal and he took time out to speak with us about what it really means not just for the capital region, but the whole Welsh economy.

The idea behind the City Deal dates back to 2010, and by 2013/14 it became top of the political and economic agenda for both the Welsh and UK Governments. In 2017, the Deal was formally signed with the business plan following suit just two weeks ago. But what does this mean for the Caerphilly region? How will the area benefit from the £1.2bn fund?

The Deal itself covers the entire region, from Bridgend in the west, Merthyr Tydfil to the north and Newport to the east, with a plethora of key projects falling under its umbrella - the £734m Metro project being the headline grabber. But as Gareth pointed out, regeneration goes beyond simple infrastructure, it covers housing, internet connectivity, and 5G among other things. The result of which, he said, will be the creation of 25,000 jobs.

Against this backdrop, Gareth argues, the reasons for voting for Brexit seem futile. If people realised the investment that was earmarked for Cardiff and the surrounding region, it is questionable of the decision to leave the EU would have been what it was.

From Augmented Reality and Internet of Things, to 3D Prototyping and Blockchain, technology is and will play an increasingly important role in every aspect of our personal and business lives. This is presenting a wealth of new opportunities across the region for businesses over the long term. But he warned that a change in approach and mind-set is needed if the potential on offered is fully realised.

He said: “Unless we invest in companies now we won’t have anyone in a position to take advantage of the huge business opportunities that will arise in the coming years.

“Cardiff Airport is a case in point – if and when Welsh Government sells the airport, it is likely it will be bought by international players who can turn into commercial enterprise.”

Future Generations Act, Valleys Taskforce and the New Economic Contract – collectively create a level playing field yet the focus is too much on tomorrow, rather than the future. As Gareth explained, “We need a future market view – it’s all very well having record-high employment rates and job creation, but we’re not seeing wage increases, rises in job satisfaction.”

So, what can Caerphilly businesses do to get the most from the City Deal?

On the Metro, it’s about identifying key locations for stops and building housing close by. But it is more than that, he urged the need for more entrepreneurs to take the risk and create and build new businesses in the area – to create new opportunities and reasons for people to want to be here, rather feeling compelled to go to the likes of Cardiff or Newport for a better retail or hospitality experience.

Politics, he said, can only do so much. Change needs to come from people themselves. Communities need to be well-informed and equally aware of the way in which we all tend to live in accordance to what is familiar, but if we take a step back and look at how we make the decisions we do we would recognise there are different – better – ways to go about the way we live, both on a personal and business level. Learning new skills or adopting new business practices, for instance, is hard and often a thankless task.

But we will each be in a better position by doing these things. We need to identify the skills that will be needed for tomorrow’s workforce, more importantly we need a change of attitude. It’s not about who and what we are now, it’s where we’re going to be that matters.