HOUNSLOW’S heads of industry have linked up in a bid to halt the alarming rate of business closures in the borough.
Bosses of businesses from banks to bakeries joined political leaders for the first Feltham and Heston Business Networking Lunch on Thursday last week.
The event, at the Park Grand Heathrow, in Great West Road, Hounslow, was organised by Feltham and Heston MP Seema Malhotra, in conjunction with Hounslow Chamber of Commerce.
More than 2,000 businesses in Hounslow have closed since 2010, according to government figures, while just 45 per cent of firms that started trading in 2006 remained open in 2011.
However, the number of businesses in Feltham and Heston grew by 13 per cent between 2011 and 2012, and the constituency is home to 6,600 small companies.
About 50 business people and politicians, including Ms Malhotra and Lord Clive Hollick, gathered last week – in what they hope will become a regular event – to discuss how to give the local economy a shot in the arm.
“I was really heartened by the meeting. There was a good exchange both about the local economy and how business can help tackle some of the social issues in the borough,” said Ms Malhotra.
“Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, figured highly, and I’m looking forward to working with local businesses, the council and other agencies to tackle this issue.”
Speeding up the planning process, making sure Hounslow Council is seen as pro-business and, of course, Heathrow, were among the other topics heading the agenda.
Hounslow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Fry said: “It’s important to give business people and politicians the opportunity to speak candidly like this, without any electoral premise.”
Kulwinder Baul, owner of Kool Cakes Bakery, which has a branch in New Heston Road, Heston, was among those at the meeting.
He said one of the biggest issues for him was finding local people to fill vacancies at his three outlets.
“Every time we put a job notice in the window the only applicants are foreign students who might only be in the country for another few months,” he said.
“We want to employ local people so we can train them and hold on to them for a long time. I want to pass on my 22 years of experience as a cake designer and decorator.”