Marches Local Enterprise Partnership appoints new chair

One of the region’s highest-profile businesswomen has been appointed to head the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Marches Local Enterprise Partnership appoints new chair

Sonia Roberts, chief executive of supported employment and training charity Landau, was named the new chair of the Marches LEP at its board meeting yesterday – stepping up from the role of deputy chair which she has held for the last three years.

She succeeds Mandy Thorn MBE who stands down after serving a three-year term as head of the LEP.

The LEP brings together the business community, the public sector and academia to drive economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, and has invested £196million in the region over the last decade.

Its business support service – the Marches Growth Hub – supported more than 15,000 businesses across the region in the 2021/22 financial year and helped more than 800 people start a new business.

Sonia, who has served on the LEP board since 2015, said she was hugely honoured to have been appointed – and praised Mandy’s work in leading the LEP through a difficult period.

“The Marches LEP is fundamental to the economic prosperity of this region, working with our partners to ensure that the necessary infrastructure, economic conditions and skills are all in place to help it flourish.

“Mandy has been an inspirational leader over the last three years, working tirelessly to promote the Marches here, regionally and on the national stage.

“Her vision and belief in the partnership working which is so essential if we are to maximise our full potential has never wavered, and the energy and commitment she has brought to the role has been truly magnificent.

“At a time when the future of the LEPs has been under review, she has remained a steadfast champion for the partnership and a true champion of this wonderful region. I cannot thank her enough for her work as chair and look forward to the challenge of carrying on her good work.

“The current economic situation means that the value of partnership working has never been greater. Our vision for a high-skill, high-wage region which plays its part in meeting the climate crisis challenge and building for a prosperous, sustainable future, requires the business community, our local authorities and education and skills providers to have a razor-sharp focus on working together to achieve the maximum results. The LEP will play its full part in making that happen.”

After a successful commercial career as director with Laura Ashley, Sonia moved to the charitable sector in 2003 as CEO of Landau, one of the UK’s most prestigious supported training and employment organisations. She has led the charity from a £200,000 to a £4.5million turnover business and increased its service delivery across the UK.

Mandy said she was delighted with Sonia’s appointment.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the Marches LEP as its chair for the past three years, during which I have worked closely with Sonia and admired her wholehearted commitment to the economic success of this region.

“I can think of no better person to take over the reins and I wish her every success in her new role. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time serving the LEP and helping develop this fantastic area. 

“The LEP has a record of delivery of which it can be justly proud, but the Marches cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to build a strong, prosperous future for all corners of the region.”

Sonia’s appointment – for a three-year term and ratified by the full Marches LEP board at its meeting on November 29 – follows a comprehensive recruitment process.

Photo:  Mandy Thorn, left, and Sonia Roberts