A Message from the Chair, Reading UK

7 February 2018

AdamJacobs.jpgThe most recent meeting of Reading UK’s Board of Directors, held at the Forbury Hotel in late January, took the opportunity to canvas the opinion of the wider Reading business community and health check the work we are doing on behalf of Reading.

The annual Away Day for our Board members kicked off with reports on recent Reading UK activity, which included the Board’s sponsorship and support for the launch of Ethical Reading and its ongoing involvement with the Reading 2050 project. The 2050 Vision project, which was itself launched by Reading UK and its partners Barton Willmore and the University of Reading in October 2017, will be focusing on the smart agenda over the next 12 months, guided by its new Steering Group and reporting to the Reading UK Board regularly.

Approaching the final year of its current mandate, Reading BID reported on its successful renewal of the Purple Flag accreditation for Reading’s night time economy, the appointment of our first Daytime Warden and plans for night time wardens for the town centre as well as learning gained from other BIDS as we approach the renewal process. The smooth management of Reading BID in 2018/19 and its successful renewal is key to the future of Reading.

The Board noted that the last 12 months had been a particularly active year for Reading UK with notable milestones including many successful events that raised the profile of the town, including the first Reading on Thames Festival and Reading Cultural Awards as well as Light up Reading and the ongoing popularity of our street food markets.

The new mission statement for Reading UK - Growing Opportunity by boosting business, improving visitor perceptions and improving the quality of life for all in the Reading region – will underpin the work of the Board and Reading UK staff for the next 12 months.

The Board identified a series of priorities for Reading UK in 2018, both corporately and on behalf of Reading.

The Board are keen for Reading UK to grow its corporate profile and business visibility as lead body for marketing Reading. A key outcome for 2018 will be to increase the volume and targeting of Reading UK’s promotion of Reading, with regard to both the town centre and the wider Reading economy.  

The successful renewal of the Reading BID in spring 2019 will depend on delivering a successful year five of the current BID this year. This will also support the work to extend the BID to the wider town centre commercial office districts. The latter process will include widespread consultation and regular communication with businesses in the identified area.

Reading UK’s lead role in the Reading 2050 Vision project will see the roll out of a new governance structure for management of project, with a key priority being the SMART City agenda in year one.

In the area of skills development, the Board’s Business Growth and Skills Group identified support for the £1m Stronger Together project, which tackles labour supply issues of local companies, as a key priority for 2018.

Place making has become an increasingly important part of Reading UK’s work in recent years and the Board is keen to see this continue to ensure Reading is perceived as a great place to live, work and locate a business. Growing Reading UK’s new events - the Reading on Thames Festival and Reading Cultural Awards will allow us to wave the flag for Reading’s creative sector and landscape assets.

Supporting the re-opening of Reading Abbey will help leverage profile for Reading’s heritage beyond the town while introducing new events such as an urban art market will showcase our own cultural community. Reading UK’s investment in social media resources will also help raise the town’s profile to the wider economy and along with the in-production Relocation Guide and Reading UK magazine will allow us to support business recruitment and retention targets as well as inward investment more actively.

Extending an invitation to selected key businesses in Reading to share their feedback on Reading’s challenges and Reading UK’s work was an important part of this year’s Away Day. Thanks to colleagues from Boyes Turner, PwC, Bayer, Haslams, Forbury Hotel, Wood, Westcoast, Ethical Reading, Activate Learning/Reading College for joining our meeting and providing such informed feedback.

The experience of these businesses in terms of their current issues and future requirements chimed strongly with our work.  Unsurprisingly, recruitment and good transport links into and around Reading were key priorities for them, along with affordable housing for their workforces and education to ensure a future local workforce supply chain.  Whilst welcoming the work Reading UK and the BID in particular does for the town centre, they were also keen to see Reading UK grow its influence in the wider Reading economic area and to ensure that Reading and Reading UK were more visible beyond the Reading borough boundaries through a stronger brand for Reading and increased promotion.

They agreed that Reading 2050 provides an opportunity to shape future development discussions and that maximising interest in the reopening of Reading Abbey as well as the strong international reputation of the University of Reading and its development plans such as the Thames Valley Science Park will benefit Reading in the longer term. We should make the most of these.

The Board Away Day demonstrated the clear synergy between Reading UK priorities and the challenges and opportunities identified by our guests.  The Board was grateful for the opportunity to test its planned priority work strands with a wider stakeholder group and the course of action that will follow allows us to shape Reading’s future and to better market Reading as a great place to live, work, visit and do business in 2018.

Adam Jacobs, Chair


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