I SAID last week that the Switch On To Swindon team would have a stand at the first annual conference of the Swindon And Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

We joined more than 200 delegates at Alexandra House, near Wroughton, to hear what the SWLEP has been doing.

We also signed up some new SOTS ambassadors, of course.

Local Enterprise Partnerships were introduced in 2011 and are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and businesses designed to help determine local economic growth and job creation in an area.

That sounds great but, like all partnerships of this nature, the challenge lies in getting the message out there and helping people understand exactly what they do.

The conference last week was part of a concerted effort from the SWLEP board to make the partnership far more visible and shine a light the impact it has had to date.

As well as what it plans for the future and some of the services it makes available to help businesses of all shapes and sizes.

SWLEP chairman John Mortimer described the partnership as closely-guarded secret weapon of the government’s economic strategy and, through the course of the conference he and his colleagues successfully brought things well and truly out into the open.

Running through some of the successes of 2016, delegates heard that total investment of more than £169m of funding had been accessed, leveraging a total of £349m, and leading to the creation of 12,000 new jobs.

To bring that to life, some of the vital infrastructure improvements that that we are seeing right now - for example at Junction 16 of the M4 or the Greenbridge Roundabout - have received significant investment from the SWLEP.

Of particular interest, given what a thriving small to medium sized business sector we have in Swindon, was the announcement of a new Growth Hub programme.

This is, in effect, a gateway to business support, where people can get information about running and growing a successful business.

The first Growth Hub, running since 2014, has been very successful with more than 4,500 new users on the online portal in 2016. The hub had supported 537 existing businesses, 49 start-ups, and 52 pre-start-ups.

As with all things it was time to improve the offer even more, and so the new Growth Hub website was unveiled which has a new identity, look, additional functionality and a new URL - www.swgrowthhub.co.uk.

It is well worth a visit, and will have 250 articles and 600 fact sheets about running a business and easy signposting to practical support .

The site will also create a user-generated community of news, events, and information catering to all sizes and stages of business across all sectors.

We have worked closely with the SWLEP since the inception of our campaign and our presence at the conference cemented that relationship.

The SWLEP annual report has an ambition for Swindon and Wiltshire to be “world-renowned for innovation, entrepreneurialism, and a great quality of life by 2026.” Visit www.swlep.co.uk.