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EXCLUSIVE first interview with the new Chief Exec of Gatwick Diamond Business

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Following the announcement last week of the new Chief Executive of Gatwick Diamond Business, we met up with Jeff Alexander to find out more about the man and what he hopes to bring to the business.

So for people who don’t know you, how would you sum up your background, and your journey to get here?

I consider myself to be a professional in economic development and business support. I have work extensively in this area but not in such a focussed way. I was Executive Director of an organisation called South East England Development Agency (SEEDA). It was a regional development agency and it covered the whole of the South East of England. So this was part of that patch but so was Hampshire, and so was Kent, and so was Milton Keynes believe it or not. So I’ve worked extensively in the area, working on programs directly or indirectly to support business. From running organisations that actually provide business support – the old Business Link service as it was called – through to working to attract inward investment including foreign investment. So those are the sort of areas I’ve been involved in.

Since leaving SEEDA 8 or 9 years ago, I ran my own business and economic consultancy based from home at Horsham and that’s included a spell where I worked at the Gatwick Diamond initiative.

“I do not play the trumpet, I do not have a wide range of very bad jokes”

So you were perfectly placed then. You weren’t in a contact with another organisation or anything like that?

No, I’ve just finished off my most recent contract working in Buckinghamshire for their equivalent of Coast2Capital, their equivalent of the LEP, developing their local industrial strategy which is something Coast2Capital are going to have to do very soon.

What’s great about this job is that, having applied my trade almost across the country, to be working in what I now strongly consider to be my home, and being able to build on relationships I already had, it’s just a superb opportunity for me.

It’s really good how I’ve been welcomed back because as you say, I do know a lot of the people, so coming into something where you’ve got that framework of knowing the issues, having worked extensively for example on the Gatwick Airport third runway issue and also knowing the people gives you a framework and that’s great.

It’s the chance of a lifetime for me really to bring together my professional expertise and my commitment to a place.

How has the reaction been for you so far?

It’s a mixture. Very, very welcoming. Almost a welcome back from the people I know, including the partner organisations which are important.

We’re a business membership organisation but our partners are the local authorities, Coast2Capital which I’ve mentioned. So, a strong welcome back from those and from the businesses I know. And then a warm welcome but ‘How on earth are you going to step into Jeremy’s shoes?’ from the business members who I don’t yet know so well.

Is that a concern though, because when you have people who are very exuberant characters, can that sometimes detract from actually what the purpose of the job is?

People do things in their own way and I am a different character to Jeremy. A phrase I will not use is that ‘I’m stepping into Jeremy’s shoes’ – because I’m not, I wouldn’t attempt to. I do not play the trumpet, I do not have a wide range of very bad jokes.

But nevertheless, I’ve actually learnt a lot from Jeremy over the years in terms of his style, and his openness, and his ability to engage in a relaxed way with businesses. And I find that, coming out of a bit more of a – the start of my career was a public sector career – a bit more starchy. What I’ve learnt with people like Jeremy and the businesses I deal with it’s a much more relaxed style and it goes down very well with businesses and particularly smaller business. So you have serious discussions with them, but you do it in an informal way.

What’s the aim then Jeff? Where are you hoping to take Gatwick Diamond now?

The aim is to develop the organisation further, to appeal to a wider range of members – particularly to appeal to an increasing number of larger members. I don’t necessarily mean the very big corporates, we have some great corporate members like Gatwick Airport and Canon and Elekta, but to appeal to some of the more medium sized businesses and to look at our offer and adapt it to the different requirements of different types of businesses.

And then it’s to work out, with businesses, what the challenges are that they face. But clearly there’s going to be a big challenge with Brexit. It’s bound to happen and it doesn’t really matter what your position is.

Whether you support it or not there are going to be issues for businesses, particularly the businesses that trade internationally. So that’s an area where we could look to develop our offer.

“There’s going to be a big challenge with Brexit”

We work primarily on a networking basis, so what we can do to help businesses learn from each other – bring in expertise from outside where we need to – and then help businesses to develop. But also working closely with the Gatwick Diamond initiative, which is our sister organisation in many ways, is just to promote the Gatwick Diamond as an economic area. Because we need to attract new business, new investment.

Any economy, including ours, is losing jobs all the time. An economy is never full because of the rate at which you lose jobs, and the trick is how you attract new jobs that are actually a better quality than those you’re losing and how then do you enable local people to fill those higher skilled jobs. That sort of goes above our day to day remit in terms of the work we do with individual businesses, but it’s an area I’d certainly like to develop.

You can find out more about Gatwick Diamond Business and how it can help your company here.

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The Harry Potter Shop™ lands at Gatwick North Terminal

London Gatwick has welcomed The Harry Potter Shop™ to its North Terminal.

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As the UK enjoys the release of Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the new 614 sq ft store offers a fantastic selection of items from across the Wizarding World.

From gifts to clothing, souvenirs to collectibles, Gatwick’s latest addition will offer a unique experience for the airport’s global passenger mix. Over 46 million passengers travel through Gatwick each year, with the airport offering connections to over 220 destinations, including more than 60 long-haul routes.

Tyler Miles, 10, visits The Harry Potter Shop before heading off on holiday from Gatwick.

Amongst the great winter gifts that can be purchased are Harry Potter Christmas jumpers and a winter accessories set including hat, scarf and gloves. Wizarding World fans can even bag a personalised Hogwarts acceptance letter, mystery flying Snitch or – the ultimate must-have for any aspiring wizard or witch – their favourite character’s wand.

Jonathan Sands of The Harry Potter Shop™ said:

“We are so proud to open the newest of our official Harry Potter Shops at Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal. Our aim is to create a unique shopping experience, offering the best of what the Wizarding World has to offer.”

Rachel Bulford, Head of Retail, London Gatwick said:

“I am thrilled to welcome such a popular and iconic brand to Gatwick. The Harry Potter Shop™ is a fantastic addition to the retailers at Gatwick as we continue to focus on providing great choice and value for our passengers through our mix of shops and restaurants.”

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