As we transition out of the European Union – which funded the project through the Interreg Fund – it seems timely to reflect on the event and consider what our new relationship with our near European neighbours may deliver.
Acting on behalf of our client, Kent County Council’s Economic Development Department, the project epitomised the opportunities presented by Interreg, itself made possible thanks to Eurotunnel – the first fixed-link between Kent and mainland Europe since the ice age.
During the 90s and beyond, no Interreg funding opportunity stone was left unturned thanks to the collective efforts of Cllr Alex King, and later Cllr Paul Carter, and Kent County Council’s Brussels office, to build trade and economic relations.
The Transchannel event, held at Brand Hatch, generated trade connections at regional and individual business level. After many sleepless nights, Maxim successfully welcomed thousands of visitors to the trade exhibition and conference programme over several days.
Opened by Ian Lang, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and visited by VIPs from all regions, Transchannel ’95 remains the largest dedicated cross-Channel event ever delivered in Kent.
The timely question has to be: could Kent forge its own links with our European near neighbours in an attempt to strengthen trade connections and supply chains? Or should it look further afield?
Ironically, Kent companies have always underperformed in the international trade league table, despite the county being the closest part of the UK to mainland Europe.
It’s unlikely that Kent could be part of any Interreg 2.0 after 1 January unless the Government decided to fund it, and that’s politically very unlikely to happen. As a result, the money would have to be found from elsewhere, and it certainly won’t be found under a sofa at County Hall.
Another blast from Maxim and Kent’s past – and a possible option going forward is – the Global Partnership, led by the Learning & Business Link Company (successor to Kent TEC) back in 1999.
The project connected Kent’s business community with its opposite numbers in Australia, California and South Korea, and Maxim delivered the PR support, securing coverage in the FT and overseas.
The Global Partnership was ahead of its time thanks to LBL Chief Executive Malcolm Allan, and digitally connected the business communities around the world.
Could the philosophy of the Global Partnership be revisited for the benefit Kent’s economy? And did you know there are 41 Dovers, 24 Rochesters, 18 Ashfords and 12 Canterburys around the world?
Food for thought.
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