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Meet Simon Marks, Board Director for Optimising Assets at GBSLEP

Tell us about your role and your current focus at the LEP?

I am delighted to be the GBSLEP Board Non-Exec Director for Optimising Assets. Think about place making and how great places can drive economic growth and improve the quality of life and you will get the idea! We are currently focused around Towns and Local Centres and Housing, having recently published the Town and Local Centres Framework and the Housing Framework.

What attracted you to the role on the LEP Board?

The role with GBSLEP was an opportunity for me personally to use my experience and skills plus the network and knowledge of Arcadis to have a direct impact on some of the region’s most important and economically impactful projects. The opportunity to work in collaboration with colleagues from across the public and private sector, using the private sectors business acumen and the public sectors financial toolkit, to bring forward projects that would otherwise be unviable, but were yet from a business case and common sense perspectives ‘no brainers’ and fundamental to our regions continued growth, was something I couldn’t pass up.

What motivates you to do the job you do?

Working as the Birmingham and West Midlands City Executive for Arcadis is a privileged position to have. Every day I get to do the things that I really enjoy like meeting new and different people, making introductions between people in my network who I know can do great things together, seeing how what we, Arcadis, do as a business globally can have an impact and make a difference locally – and all of this with this goal of improving the Quality of Life for people and communities. It really is a very special and rewarding role.

What has been the most important lesson you have learned during your career?

This one is easy. To take time at the start of any project or complex programme and set it up properly for success. Think through the options, bring the right people, tools and processes together and start in the right way. Projects fail when there is little or no planning. Time ‘invested’ at the start will be rewarded during and at the end of the journey.

What are you most proud of achieving at the LEP?

Wow, this is a tough one. There are so many things from seeing small and large projects we have funded come out of the ground and being used for the intended purpose, to watching the steady improvement in the regions performance metrics as we work we do in partnership with others begins to have an impact. But I think the one thing that stands out for me is the recent launch of the Towns and Local Centres Framework. This is such a timely and relevant toolkit and guidance for those stakeholders involved in our struggling centres and I hope it will one day be viewed as the toolkit that genuinely helped the evolution of our centres back to the thriving important community places they once were. Of course, I cannot take the credit for this work. The LEP officer team that did all the hard work really excelled themselves and delivered an amazing framework.

What is your main focus for 2019 in your role as Board Director for Optimising Assets?

We are developing our delivery plan for the Optimising Assets work of the LEP. There are a number of areas of focus from housing to continuing to enable the exciting projects coming through the pipeline as well as supporting the roll out on the ground of the hard work done in 2018. However, I want to continue to work in partnership with all the local authorities and the combined authority to make sure we drive the economic growth of the region, but making sure the economic growth benefits everyone who calls our geography their home. The Place agenda is a wide one and I want to create places that allow people and communities to thrive and where every day they feed inspired.

What is your favourite part of the GBSLEP area (location)?

I couldn’t possibly say…there are so many…and I might upset someone! But joking aside I think our region has so much to offer, and so much that is different. From the high quality city centre offer that Birmingham has, to Cannock Chase where you can ride your bike on challenging routes, to Lichfield with its truly awe inspiring cathedral and to Solihull where you can be walking in country side one minute, be shopping the next and then fly off some exotic the minute after. What an amazing place to be! I challenge anyone to better our place.