New Somerset think-tank aim to bring millions of pounds of investment to the area

Bridgwater Mercury: Derek Biss, Kit O’Brien and Steve Leahy are amongst the members of Passion for Somerset. Derek Biss, Kit O’Brien and Steve Leahy are amongst the members of Passion for Somerset.

PASSION for Somerset is the name of an innovative think tank which aims to bring millions of pounds of investment to the area.

Business leaders have joined together in a bid to create jobs and promote business development in the county.

Steve Leahy of Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce, Denys Rayner of Pardoes solicitors and Derek Biss of Greenslade Taylor Hunt were among 20 founder members.

Mr Leahy said: “We want to make sure businesses know they can look locally first and internationally second.

“The people part of this project were born and bred in Somerset so they are really passionate about it. Somerset is a great place to live and work and opportunities locally should be open to all.”

The group is looking to unite towns such as Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Weston and Bath to bring the whole county together.

Kit O’Brien, managing partner at Pardoes, said: “It’s something we are really committed to. We think it’s important for Somerset business to have a voice. It’s not just a staging point between Swindon and Cornwall.”

The inaugural meeting happened last Monday when they laid out the group’s vision and plans for the future.

Mr Biss said: “I think Bridgwater has really got its act together and is looking good for the future. With Hinkley Point bringing jobs to the area, Bridgwater is on the up and up.”

At the launch event held at Taunton School, Denys Rayner, executive chairman of Pardoes, said there were very few bodies speaking for the whole of Somerset in a non-political way.

“We thought it would be a good idea to bring key businesses together to really drive the agenda for the county,” he added.

The meeting heard from Andrew Scott, CEO of the Ascot Group, who said Somerset was coming out of a difficult time for business with confidence now returning.

“We want to put together a team of people to drive this area forward. Passion for Somerset is about pulling people together, who can make a difference and influence decisions.”

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