A LEADING Tory minister visited Worcester today - to launch a hugely important project aimed at creating new jobs.
Matthew Hancock, the skills and enterprise minister, made an appearance at New Road cricket ground to back Worcestershire.Business.Central.
The scheme, the first of its kind across the West Midlands, is a live response desk which acts as a single point of contact linking employers to help on issues like finance.
The website, which is being called Worcestershire's 'growth hub', is aimed at helping new businesses launch and offering quicker solutions to those looking to expand.
Mr Hancock, who was promoted to his ministerial role by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012, said areas like Worcestershire have a vital role to play in helping the economy.
During his visit he was handed a bag of Evesham asparagus to welcome him to the county.
"The Government is an unashamed supporter of small business," he said.
"Last year it made a commitment to ensure the support is simple, easy to find and designed around businesses' needs to help them start up and scale up.
"Small businesses are the cornerstone of long-term economic growth."
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader of Worcestershire County Council, said being the first to launch a growth hub in the region is "quite a coup".
"This shows we act on what businesses tell us they want as we work to the ethos of the growth hub to help improve Worcestershire's local economy and the lives of those who live here," he said.
During his trip to Worcester, city MP Robin Walker also took the minister to see The Hive and the skills centre at the technology college.
More than 20 organisations have come together to launch Worcestershire.Business.Central, and all of them will share information and advice as companies log on for help.
It took a year of preparation to get to today's launch, which was largely in response to employers wanting a simpler and clearer route to the support and finance available to them.
Over the coming months the Government wants to see growth hubs become the norm across the UK.
Gary Woodman, from Worcestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the main lobbying body for private sector employers in the county, said: "We are leading the field in Worcestershire and join the county council in welcoming the minister to the official launch of the West Midlands' first growth hub here in Worcestershire."
To see the hub visit business-central.co.uk.