The benefits of connecting regional economies in the UK has been highlighted by a successful trade mission to the South West by business leaders from Norfolk and Suffolk.
A delegation of 20 visited the area to learn more about the region’s nuclear power and food and drink sectors, and to seek mutual business opportunities.
After flying from Norwich Airport to Exeter Airport, the delegation visited Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in North Somerset – the largest construction site in Europe – and the family-owned Trewithen Dairy in Lostwithiel, Cornwall.
Matt Roach, managing director of Exeter Airport, said: “This visit once more highlighted the significance of connecting regional economies and the opportunities for partnership between our regions across a range of sectors, and our visitors were very impressed with what they saw.
“Many were also surprised that they can fly from Norwich to Exeter in just 45 minutes compared to a five or six hour rail or road journey, so there are huge savings in terms of time and the route really helps to bring our two regions together.”
The visit was arranged by Exeter Airport and Norwich Airport through their respective Connects business ambassador networks, which aim to forge closer trading links between the regions. Both airports are part of Regional and City Airports, the airport management division of Rigby Group plc.
The trip builds on a trade mission from the South West to Norwich 18 months ago and was supported by the South West Business Council, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Flybe.
Tim Jones, Chair of the South West Business Council and Exeter Connects, hailed the mission a success, saying it demonstrated the importance of regional airports in connecting business.
He said: “Regional airports are a lifeline. These links are viable, tangible and prove business can be done between regions without having to go through London. We can use our airports to shrink the geography and distances between regions so they can work together effectively, and we’ve shown that in a number of sectors with this visit.
“There are many similarities between our regions – both have strong food and drink sectors and the delegation learned how the South West has captured the huge economic benefits of Hinkley C, with the same design due to be replicated at Sizewell C in Suffolk in the future.”
Doug Field, Chair of New Anglia LEP, added: “There are many opportunities within the UK to strengthen our local economies and this visit has enabled us to explore how our regions can collaborate to accelerate growth.
“Regional airports are important hubs and we need to do more to maximise their benefits and improve that connectivity. Our growing relationship with the South West of England could open doors for new business and trading collaborations.”