Chief executive of Wilton Universal Group, Bill Scott, OBE, is optimistic about the benefits that Freeports could bring to the UK, but is not without reservations. He highlights the preparation that needs to be done, from addressing the skills shortage to investing in the infrastructure of areas where the ports will reside.
"The future of Freeports is yet to be proven, however when piecing together the many positives it’s hard to see beyond the substantial benefits that they could bring to the region and the UK, that said, the success of Freeports will require hard work, determination and commitment from all those involved.
"Right now, in the UK we are amid one of the worst skills shortages that we have seen for a very long time, and the root of this problem needs to be resolved in order to fill the roles that Freeports promise to bring, only then will we see the full benefits unfold. This means a collaborative effort from central and local Government and businesses alike to address the skills shortage which is critical to the success of the country and region as a whole, we need to work together. Preparation for the Freeports is essential. By preparing the areas where the ports will reside, you create longevity for the plans beyond the five-year Freeport status. By looking at the bigger picture, the support needed is evident. The livelihoods of those people residing near, and those relocating to the Freeports areas are of paramount importance. Good quality housing, school and road infrastructure will be needed for the areas to fulfil their potential. The North East has always been collaborative in its efforts to enrich the region through trade, and Freeports will hopefully prove to the younger generation that there is opportunity on their doorstep. We need to get things right now to inspire the future generation and keep the future talent in the North East."