As this goes to press, we have had the dreadful news of the sudden accidental death of Dean Kronsbein, who has brought so much new energy and so many new jobs recently to Ross-on-Wye as founder and MD of Ultrafilter, the Covid mask manufacturer.
I know all Gazette readers will want to join me in sending his family our deepest condolences.
It is particularly poignant, because Dean and his company represented just the kind of innovative new manufacturing that the county has long needed.
Gazette readers will know that ever since I became a Parliamentary candidate in 2006, my goal has been to try to lift and improve the whole economic model of the county. That means more growth, better jobs and higher wages.
It became clear early on that Herefordshire and the wider Marches region could never hope to achieve sustained economic growth and higher incomes without a much greater focus on skills and higher and further education and much greater public and private investment.
So readers will understand my excitement that in recent weeks Herefordshire Council has submitted a major bid for £20 million in public investment in Model Farm just outside Ross, from the Government’s levelling up fund. This comes alongside other bids for Hereford and for the north of the county.
These bids are fearsomely competitive matters, and it remains to be seen how successful we will be. But I feel very good about the whole approach here, for three reasons.
First, because it directly builds on the £22.5 million in Towns Fund investment which we are looking to lock down for Hereford in the next few weeks, after 18 months of work.
Secondly, because despite some long delays Model Farm remains a shovel-ready project which will draw directly on the highly successful team which has drawn so many new businesses to the Enterprise Zone at Skylon Park.
And thirdly, because this enhanced Model Farm development will have a direct link with our new Herefordshire university, NMITE, which is going gangbusters at the moment.
The whole package is expected to bring up to 1,250 new jobs, as well as new skills, to Ross. If it is successful, it will make a huge difference in propelling Ross forward in the next few years. And it represents exactly the kind of pump-priming investment that Dean Kronsbein would have welcomed as a manager, business builder and entrepreneur. RIP.
Published in the Ross Gazette