South Staffordshire Council: Business Place Partnership and Business Hubs
The Business Place Partnership is an innovative approach to a council’s relationship with businesses. Since its launch in 2021, the partnership has underpinned the council’s entire approach to business engagement. The partnership, which is over 100 businesses strong, brings together businesses, the council and partner organisations to build strong, long-standing relationships. Through the partnership, the council set out five pledges to its businesses:
To listen to business partners to understand the challenges and opportunities within their sectors.
To provide an effective ‘front door’ service, through the Business Hub, for businesses to access business support from the council, and other delivery partners, to help them start and grow.
To work with partners to bring together businesses and education to help inspire the district’s young people and promote career opportunities.
Through place branding, to provide a platform to promote the diverse range of businesses and sectors in South Staffordshire.
To work closely with businesses to support the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of the district and beyond.
The partnership enables peer support through sharing of best practice and business news and also facilitates networking between businesses, the council and strategic partners. Examples of how the partnership is delivering include:
Business events delivered and supported by our partners including large and small Business Support Clinics across the district. A climate change themed networking event. A large-scale inward investment showcase. A hospitality sector event day for young people. A Christmas fayre for home-based businesses at Community Hub. A cyber security and corporate social responsibility themed event.
High streets – feedback from retail and hospitality businesses across villages in the district highlighted a barrier for many in offering an online service. In response, the South Staffordshire Virtual High Street online platform was launched at the beginning of 2022 providing businesses with the ability to diversify and promote their goods and services by trading online. 100 businesses are now using the “Virtual High Street”.
Commercial tenants – the council owns and manages a large portfolio of commercial properties across the district. Through the partnership, the Council has developed a relationship with businesses beyond transactional landlord and tenant arrangement. Business events have been held at the council’s industrial estates, bringing together the council and large employers to promote supply chain opportunities and provide the latest business news through a monthly newsletter.
Partnership Hubs and Ambassadors – Through the council’s Locality+ approach to delivery of services, locations have been identified for business hubs. These hubs, located primarily at business premises provide a multi-purpose function to ensure that delivery of support is not centred on a single location. It also means a range of sectors are supporting businesses across the district.
Strengthened relationships with businesses have enabled key employers from a range of sectors to help form a Hub Ambassadors group. The Ambassadors bring together individual expertise to be a voice for local businesses, to work with the council and partners and ensure that the partnership delivers on its pledges.
The council and other public and voluntary sector partners benefit from the insight received through engagement with businesses. Better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for businesses is informing service delivery. Businesses are benefitting from bespoke support rather than a blanket approach. Themed events, directly linked to pledges are providing business-friendly information accompanied by direct advice to help businesses implement changes and grow sustainably. Communities are benefitting too. Through engagement with schools and local charities, the partnership is creating opportunities to link business with education and become involved in local projects.