Solent Freeport launch unveils vision for region’s future

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Dee Caffari MBE speaking at the Solent Summit

Business and community leaders, potential investors, education providers, local government and other interested parties came together for the Solent Summit, an event to mark the launch of the Solent Freeport, on Wednesday 8 June at Horizon Cruise Terminal in Southampton.

Over 300 guests attended the event, with a further 200 joining online, to learn more about the Freeport’s sites and the opportunities they will drive across innovation and green growth; providing a centre of excellence in green skills and jobs to ensure local communities, and in particular young people, can benefit from opportunities created.

Alastair Welch, Associated British Ports’ Southampton Director, says: “It was a great pleasure to host the Solent Summit and introduce stakeholders to the Freeport at what is a really pivotal time for our region. The Solent region is home to the UK’s most important trade gateway and has a good deal more potential to unlock. The Solent Freeport will be a catalyst for this.”

The Solent Freeport comprises eight sites collectively delivering a range of tax and customs incentives to businesses locating there. They are Redbridge, Solent Gateway, the Strategic Land Reserve, Exxonmobil and Fawley Waterside, all by Southampton Water, as well as Navigator Quarter close to Southampton International Airport, Dunsbury Park in Havant, and Portsmouth International Port.

The event also marked the launch of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) long-term economic strategy: Solent 2050. The LEP also launched two major funding opportunities to support business prosperity in the region - the SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund.

Rachael Randall, Chair of the Solent LEP, said: "We were delighted to have an opportunity to share our vision for the region's future prosperity with all those who came to the Solent Summit, and to develop collaborative networks that will support the vison to become a reality. Our Solent 2050 strategy outlines how we will work with partners to level up our region, create jobs, drive innovation, and ensure a prosperous economy, providing opportunities for all communities and, in particular, our young people."

The Solent 2050 Strategy was reinforced by a series of afternoon seminars from partner organisations, highlighting the importance of the region's unique natural capital, the role of universities in amplifying innovation and developing the skills and talent of those living in the region to translate into career opportunities.

Brian Johnson, Chair of the Solent Freeport, who also spoke at the Solent Summit event, said: “The Solent Freeport will be a key component of the Solent 2050 long-term economic strategy. It will unlock billions of pounds' worth of investment, create tens of thousands of new jobs and play a critical role in achieving national levelling up ambitions."

The event was hosted by the BBC's Political Editor, Peter Henley, and also featured a speech by record-breaking sailor Dee Caffari MBE, who spoke passionately about the Solent region, and how all sectors must work together to achieve the goals highlighted at the event, whilst caring for the natural assets the Solent is blessed with.

For more info on the Solent Freeport, please visit: https://solentfreeport.com/