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Reading ‘Diamond’ showcases South East’s potential

2 March 2009

The South East is perfectly positioned for continued economic success once recovery comes, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Chancellor Alistair Darling heard today at the Regional Economic Council in Reading.

During the Council meeting, they were told that while all parts of the UK are feeling the impact of the international financial crisis, the Thames Valley’s focus on innovation and knowledge based industries and its capacity to capitalise on future investment opportunities, means the region can approach the upturn with renewed confidence as having one of the world’s most successful economies.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: "The regions are going to be a driving force in ensuring that we weather the downturn and prepare imaginatively for the upturn.

"The South East’s knowledge-based industries are playing a fundamental economic role. Companies here are not only developing the capacity to compete in new technologies with the best manufacturers in the world, but are also setting an example by which the rest of the world will follow."

Before the meeting, SEEDA Chairman Jim Brathwaite CBE accompanied Lord Mandelson on a visit to Microsoft in Reading. Mr Brathwaite said: "There is no doubt the South East has a vital role in helping the UK emerge from the recession but it is important to continue investing in new technologies and infrastructure to support this potential.

"Many world class companies like Microsoft choose to set up their headquarters in the South East. These companies will be instrumental to the future growth of the world economy and SEEDA will do whatever it can to help them achieve this – for example working with global investors and supporting innovation," said Mr Brathwaite.

Today’s Regional Economic Council meeting marks the first time the Council has met outside London and it follows last week’s Cabinet meeting in Southampton. Mr Brathwaite said this provided further evidence of the importance of the South East, demonstrating the region is the powerhouse of the UK economy.

Taking advantage of the trip to Reading, Chancellor Alistair Darling also visited the Reading Business Improvement District (BID) and discussed current challenges and successes with businesses from the BID and the SEEDA-supported Enterprise Hub, linked to Reading University.

The Chancellor met several small business owners in Reading City Centre to discuss issues affecting them and what additional support the Government could offer.

"I was struck by how determined everyone was to do whatever necessary to guide their businesses through these tough times, as well as how positive they were about the future. We must work together to help businesses in the South East take advantage of opportunities as they arise," he said.

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