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It needs people to deliver but if you are up for it so am I.

THE Minister for Economic Development and Transport said he would consider building on the economic pulling power of the south coast cities to spread wealth to the more deprived Valleys.

During a Q&A session following his address to the Hugh James Exchange Mr Jones was asked why WAG hadn't in its ERP strategy recognised Cardiff as a key driver of the Welsh economy - and being positioned as city-region as a means of spreading wealth to the more deprived South Wales Valleys.

It was also put to the Minister that Cardiff and the Valleys, with a population of 1.3million, could be transformed with more joined up thinking on economic development and transport infrastructure investment. In his response Mr Jones said: "Cardiff is too small, but you could look wider to Newport and even Swansea. It would need people to deliver on that but if you are up for it then so am I."

Also on the Q&A panel was Western Mail columnist Dylan Jones-Evans, who is director of enterprise and innovation at the University of Wales.

He agreed that Cardiff had to be "more strategically targeted" in terms of support. And chief operating officer of FTSE 100 company Admiral Group, David Stevens, said that for the "well being" of the Valleys it was important that the area shared more in the success of the capital, which he said could be improved by investment in transport infrastructure.

Panellist David Davies, managing director of Axiom Manufacturing Services, said: "You need to improve infrastructure as Cardiff grows, as you are not going to get a multi-million pound investment into parts of the Valleys."

On WAG's Economic Renewal programme Mr Stevens said he was broadly supportive.

Supporting its focus on investment in infrastructure he added: "We have learned from the last few years that you cannot bribe your way up the GVA ladder by persuading foot loose companies to come to Wales. There has to be a different approach."

However, he said that civil servants had to demonstrate a degree of "entrepreneurialism" in terms of delivering on the strategy. In another question he was asked if Admiral would have set up in Wales if it had not received grant aid. He replied that it would have if funding was offered on a non-interest bearing loan basis (the new WAG strategy).

He added: "We relocated everything here. If we had been a satellite operation of an insurance company chances are that we would have closed down by now, or not have created the quality of jobs that we have."

Mr Stevens said there was still a role for WAG in supporting start-up investments into Wales, which Admiral was back in the 1990s.

For future start-up investment he said:"They need to bring their heart and souls and their brains into the country for it to work."

Professor Jones-Evans said that the minister was wrong in having a strategy that was focused just on six key sectors, which include ICT, creative industries and advanced manufacturing.

"There is increasing evidence from organisations such as the OECD that having a sector approach does not work. Growth can occur in any sector," said Prof Jones-Evans He said there was "enormous potential" for the service sector in Wales to sell services all over the world.

Mr Davies said the ERP's claims of overseeing "radical transformation" should only be judged on results.

"Radical transformation is about culture change and that has to come from people," he added.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 14, 2010
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