A conference taking place this month hopes to answer some big questions facing Falkirk and Grangemouth in the future.
What will our town centres look like? Will we still have an industrial cluster at Grangemouth and what industries will it have? What about climate change? What jobs will there be for local people?
These are some of the issues that local business leaders and politicians will discuss on January 15 at the Investment Zone Conference, with speakers including Colin Robertson, the chief executive of Alexander Dennis Ltd, Stuart Wallace, divisional director of Forth Ports and Catherine Topley, CEO of Scottish Canals.
Also taking part at the event in the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel will be politicians including Michael Matheson MSP and Falkirk Council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn.
Anyone who lives here will know the Falkirk area has seen many changes in recent years; the population has grown; there are new housing estates and new schools.
Laura McIntyre, principal economic development officer with Falkirk Council said: “We have a growing tourism industry. We have outstanding tourism destinations, the Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House, which are attracting thousands of visitors every year.”
But along with growth comes challenge – such as the problems facing our town centres and a transport network that won’t support further growth.
One of the major themes of the conference is looking at how vital public sector investment is, even when budgets are tight.
Laura explains: “Not everyone understands the rationale for public sector investment in infrastructure projects – particularly when revenue budgets are being squeezed.”
But while the costs may be high, the council argues that capital projects – such as buildings, roads, and bridges – bring economic returns, including jobs, retail spending and tax returns.
It’s a hot topic for this area as proposals to build new office accommodation and an arts centre in the centre of Falkirk have proved controversial.
The conference will look at evidence showing that “anchor buildings” result in more foot fall, more spending and more jobs as other businesses such as cafes and bars open around them, which in turn creates more investment.
The council has already used TiF investment – which borrows money against future taxation – to unlock £67 million of funding which has been used to improve the road network at Earls Gate and Junction 6.
The conference will also be looking closely at the current Growth Deal Bid which is asking the UK and Scottish Government for an extra £235m. They will also be looking at how they work with private industries to create a better district.
Laura said: “Falkirk Council has some very supportive partners to help with investment plans. These include many private sector partners who are investing in new plant, offices and apprentices.”
The Falkirk and Grangemouth Investment Zone Conference is on January 15 at the McDonald Inchyra Hotel.
To book tickets visit https://investfalkirk2020.eventbrite.co.uk.