I recall someone from the Eden Project telling a meeting I attended last year “Cornwall has plenty of wheat farmers and plenty of bakers, but you can’t buy local wheat because there is no local mill. Whose job is it to identify that need and provide that mill?”
Interesting question, which resonated with LWM thinking on the obvious desireability of matching local resources with local needs and markets.
Transitioner and consultant Bernard Perkins and I have just been meeting to discuss how this idea can better be incorporated into economic development. We were looking initially at some work Bernard had been doing on wood fuel supply chain analysis for Warwickshire – identifying gaps such as a shortage of woodland contractors, and an erratic funding environment. It’s clear that by these means we can pinpoint effective investment in skills, grant regimes, infrastructure, business development – for supply chains within energy, manufacturing and food production.
It seems curious that we have an economic development environment with the objectives of stimulating an area’s economy, that does not identify such gaps so that a local resource can meet a local demand – but we haven’t yet found an economic development professional who says they have incorporated this thinking into their work.
Looking at LEP priorities within proposals, there’s not a hint of this approach. Why isn’t this infrastructure need to provide local economic missing links, considered alongside the infrastructure needs for airports, roads and faster trains? Are there RDAs or economic development practitioners that have taken this approach? Is there an argument against it? Can we develop ‘gap analysis’ tools to make this approach easier?