Sunday, 5 April 2009

Will the Olympics in Greenwich Boost the Local Economy?

Ask anyone who knows about inward investment and you’ll learn that such hard-nosed business decisions are taken on the basis of quality of workforce, returns on investment and transport links, not because the horsey Olympics are happening nearby.

The fact is that the Greenwich business community, being almost entirely made up of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), is in no stronger position to win Olympics contracts than they were at the end of the 1990s when preparations were being made - and millions spent - to make Greenwich the hub of the national new millennium celebrations. When the New Millennium contracts were being handed out, local printers and local suppliers of coffee and tea did not even get a sniff of a contract. The ranks of "locally based" employees recorded as working on the Dome site on the Greenwich Peninsula were swelled by the fast hordes of construction workers from all round the country who took temporary lodgings in rooms above pubs and could therefore give a Greenwich address.

According to a report in the Evening Standard (31 March 2009), a French firm (with a presence in 80 countries and an annual turnover in 2008 of "9,5 milliards d'euros") employing Portuguese workers is being lined up to build the Olympic Village. Bouygues is one of five firms shortlisted to build flats in the £1bn athletes' accommodation in Stratford. (Here is a list of Bouygues UK's top 10 projects completed in this country, for hospitals, universities and the Home Office.)

Gordon Brown famously said, "British jobs for British people"? Did not the Leader of Greenwich Council talk about local companies obtaining contracts? How likely is that to be more than political "aspiration"?

Take as a fr'instance, the huge jumps for the cross-country equestrian event. LOCOG has already said that the jumps will be constructed elsewhere before being assembled on the course. How likely is it that Greenwich companies will be able to tender for this work with any chance of winning the contract? They would be bidding against other companies in this country and overseas with perhaps 15 years or more experience in building and delivering Olympic standard jumps that fulfil safety requirement, and in liaising with Olympic course designers.

A major part of the work will be the construction and then dismantling of the 23,000 seater stadium and the security fencing around the perimeter walls. Will British companies get this contract? Will local companies win this contract? Or will the local employment just consist of temporary, low-grade, security jobs?

If truth be told, when it comes to Government contracts, unless your company has a turnover of more than £1 million/year, you are probably wasting your time bidding for the work.

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