Last week I visited Elekta on Manor Royal to see the final works taking place to their new Cornerstone building, which will significantly increase the scale of the company’s operations in the town. Elekta produce some of the world’s most advanced medical technology, they have a long history in the business district and their new building represents an investment in Crawley’s economy of tens of millions of pounds.
I visited the site around a year ago for the topping-out ceremony, not much fun in a building without walls and with sideways rain, yet to see the building so close to completion really emphasises the vote of confidence this project represents in Crawley’s economic future. However, we very nearly missed out on this opportunity, when at the last minute National Air Traffic Services objected to the planning application over concerns that the height of the building might interfere with Gatwick’s ground radar. It was only through considerable work on the part of the council and our local business partnership, the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, that a solution was found and the building was able to go ahead.
The council’s involvement in economic development isn’t just for show, at its forefront is the goal of improving the economic prospects of existing local residents. While, thankfully, Crawley has never had an unemployment problem, far too many of the jobs which go to local residents come with poor pay and are often increasingly vulnerable to automation. To resolve this we are working to attract skilled/technical jobs (which formed the bedrock of local employment when Crawley began 70 years ago) back to the area, while we’re to help people to retrain and access those new jobs through the steps outlined in the town’s first ever Jobs and Skills Plan.
With Brexit looming and the increasing use of AI, the future of the economy and employment may well be uncertain, but at least in Crawley there’s a council which is doing everything it can to help residents to move on in their careers.