Having paid tribute to the town centre Christmas lights switch on event in the town centre last week, I feel compelled to give honourable mentions to both Highworth and Old Town who both lit up their respective areas this weekend.

Switch On To Swindon has been well supported by businesses in Old Town and it was a pleasure to see those businesses come together and put on a real show for the huge crowds that gathered on Sunday evening.

As well as showing off Old Town, the event provided a great platform to show off local talent from, among others, the Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts. A big well done to all involved.

It is fair to say then that Christmas has well and truly started in Swindon. As is usual at this time of year, I’ll be looking back and reflecting on some the achievements we have made through the SOTS campaign and sharing those with you in the next couple of columns.

However, we are also busy looking ahead and planning for the future and this is particularly relevant given the recent Budget statement from the Government and the launch of the Industrial Strategy.

I have already spoken in this column about the discussions the SOTS Place Board is having about how we best take the campaign outside of the borough boundary.

I am very clear in my own mind that we need to target those sectors which have the most growth potential for Swindon based on our existing strengths.

In order to do that effectively we have to be mindful of the policy landscape and alive to the opportunities that key Government legislation may give us.

We can then work effectively with the local authority, MPs, businesses and key influencers to make the case for Swindon and compete for the right resources to ensure the local economy grows.

There are a number of opportunities that jump out of the recent announcements.

The focus on electric car technology for example where Swindon is already playing a significant part in new energy vehicle development. The focus on innovation and support for innovative companies, a real strength of Swindon across lots of sectors from pharmaceutical to financial services and automotive.

So we will be working closely with the council’s economic development team, partners such as Business West, the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and all of our ambassadors to ensure the SOTS campaign is closely aligned to, and driven by, Swindon’s inward investment and business growth strategies.

Following on from this the SOTS team were delighted to be invited to the launch of the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Business Manifesto last week at Windsor Castle.

The document sets out a clear focus for the Chamber and is well worth a read http://www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk/tvcc-business-manifesto-2018/business-manifesto-view/

windon is a key strategic town in the Thames Valley and will benefit from working with the Chamber to exert as much influence as possible with decision makers to secure the right level of investment for the borough.

Speakers at the event talked about places needing to adapt for the growing demands of a digital economy, to develop new approaches to providing skills for young people and to take advantage of any connectivity strengths.

All things Swindon is ideally placed to do and will provide a great focus for the next stage of the SOTS campaign.