BUSINESS leaders in Dorset have mapped out a post-Covid-19 recovery that champions investment in skills, young people, infrastructure and low-carbon solutions.

An upbeat Zoom conference – one of Dorset Chamber’s new Business Leaders’ Events – produced many shared thoughts on the challenges facing companies and organisations, and the further measures required to help them as the county’s economy emerges from the crisis.

Fifty-eight participants from a range of sectors attended the ‘Back to Business’ event hosted by Dorset Chamber and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Ian Girling, Chief Executive of Dorset Chamber, said there had been more than 400 enquiries during lockdown to the Dorset Gateway – the free business information, advice and support service run by Dorset LEP and Dorset Chamber – adding: “The pandemic has exposed the precarious position of many businesses who are in distress because they have little or no working capital and have seen orders cancelled.”

He said in Dorset there was particular pressure in tourism, leisure and hospitality.

Jim Stewart, Chairman of Dorset LEP’s Board, said his organisation’s response to Covid-19 featured additional resources help businesses to cope in the short-term coupled with a focus on longer-term infrastructure and skills investment and a need to create more apprenticeships.

He cited several examples of how Dorset LEP was helping to build closer working relationships between education providers and businesses.

These include support for apprenticeships via Weymouth College and Bournemouth & Poole College, and the provision of incubator space for business start-ups at Arts University Bournemouth.

Also at the conference were Matt Prosser, Chief Executive of Dorset Council, and Chris Shephard, Director of Development at BCP Council.

Both answered questions on the impact of the virus on green investment and said new ways of working prompted by the crisis could see less congestion and commuting in future.

At the same time, several participants agreed the move to more home working exemplified why 5G infrastructure and a full fibre network needed to be rolled out across Dorset.

Other points raised included calls for furlough support to be continued after the end of October for priority sectors such as hospitality and the arts.

Three ‘instant polls’ were held during the conference covering general business outlook, turnover expectations and projections on workforce size.

Compared to polls at previous Dorset Chamber events, more respondents anticipated having a smaller workforce in three months’ time but there was a more positive outlook both on general business optimism and turnover forecasts.

Dorset Chamber is also providing a range of support for business and is lobbying at a national level during the crisis.

Visit for more about support available to all businesses in Dorset.