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Supporting Watford businesses to thrive - update from the council's Economic Development team

Watford has always had a thriving and vibrant local economy. We’re making sure this continues and that our business community is supported to overcome the current challenges.

Having helped nearly 1,000 Watford businesses access support and funding throughout the pandemic, our team is now connecting businesses with opportunities and support to help them thrive, despite the ongoing turbulence in the wider economy. Here are some of the things we are doing:

Giving businesses a voice - ensuring our business community has a strong voice in shaping local policy and plans by:

  • increasing the number of businesses we meet and talk to every single day

  • creating a new Watford Business Connect event to bring the community together to discuss opportunities, challenges and updates on developments. The event will also showcase local schemes and business support. Our first event this month has 75 businesses booked to attend, with the next event happening in autumn. It will be held twice a year for all companies, sole traders and charities in Watford borough

  • working closely with Watford Chamber of Commerce and Watford BID to ensure the businesses they represent are high on the council’s agenda

Strategically aligned – harnessing regional opportunities for the benefit of Watford’s economy by:

  • working closely with our partners through a One Watford for Business stakeholder group to leverage wider potential

  • making Watford central to regional opportunities, such as growth of the film and TV industry, and ensuring Watford is represented in initiatives like the Hertfordshire Film Office, with investment from our UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Connecting with networks – connecting businesses with likeminded organisations to maximise collaboration opportunities by:

  • working with groups like the Digi-Cluster network of digital agencies and PING (the Pharmaceuticals Networking Industry Group) to promote opportunities for sector collaboration

  • supporting the range of great networking that happens across Watford, through which we connecting businesses with new ways to share ideas and meet new customers and suppliers

Business support – we have some great business support offers available for Watford businesses, delivered by partners on a local and regional basis. Clear signposting, which is boosted through our social media, website and monthly newsletter, ensures businesses can access the help and support they need.

Partners include Wenta, Hertfordshire Growth Hub and the University of Hertfordshire. We are also connecting businesses to the many other schemes and offers which become available.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs – the Watford Council-led Watford Young Entrepreneur Programme, delivered in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire last year, was a fantastic success, helping 40 new businesses become established.

We are building on this in 2023 by commissioning a Business Scale-Up project, utilising some of our UK Shared Prosperity Fund to help newly established businesses take that next step in their growth journey, nurturing the success of the next generation of great Watford businesses.

Local supply chain – supply chain constraints have been an issue across the economy, and many local businesses would like to source more from within their local area. We are investing some of our UK Shared Prosperity Fund to deliver a local supply chain project to help many small Watford businesses improve their bidding processes, so they can be more successful in winning larger contracts.

It will also channel spend from some major organisations back into Watford through ‘meet the buyer’ events, connecting their procurement pipelines with local firms.

Skills and recruitment – despite cost pressures on business, we hear daily that finding and keeping the right staff is still a real challenge. We are seeking to help businesses with this problem by:

  • creating a Watford Skills and Employment Plan, with strong input from business and practical local actions, working with West Herts College and other local skills and training providers

  • facilitating a workshop of construction industry employers and skills providers to explore local issues and find local solutions, enabling more local people to access jobs within this sector

  • making one-to-one introductions between businesses and skills and training organisations that could help with their individual challenges

Sustainability – businesses want to make changes to become more environmentally sustainable but it can be difficult for them to know how to do this. Building on last year’s successful Watford Sustainable Business project, we are investing some of our UK Shared Prosperity funding into two new projects to help more Watford businesses on their journey to decarbonise.

We also facilitate an Environmental Managers Network, which helps businesses share ideas and best practice about how to make changes and become more environmentally sustainable.

Watford Good Employer Charter – we are creating a Watford Good Employer Charter as a mechanism to help businesses address several of these areas. There are five pillars within the Charter helping businesses to:

  1. Buy more from local suppliers

  2. Recruit more local people

  3. Become more environmentally sustainable

  4. Support community - helping businesses connect their involvement in voluntary activity with Watford’s local charity and community network

  5. Be a great employer - connecting businesses with schemes and accreditations to help adopt good employment practices and enhance staff wellbeing.

There are many benefits that businesses can get from taking these approaches. We will invest some of our UK Shared Prosperity Fund to create a knowledge base to support this approach, helping businesses find the resources they need and share best practice.

Keep an eye on our newsletter for further information about when new projects will launch, or reach out to our Economic Development team:

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