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“I was speaking to businessmen recently and they said that they recognised that Lichfield District was likely to be one of the first areas in the country to come out of the recession and experience locally has backed that up. The creation of jobs at Lichfield South and at Tesco in Lichfield and Fradley that we are in better shape than most. “The tourism industry is also giving us reason to be hopeful. Tourism makes up 10 per cent of the economy in Lichfield – that’s a figure no-one would have considered ten years ago. But with two new hotels on the horizon and the Staffordshire Hoard the opportunities are there to make Lichfield a value-added tourism destination. “The new hotels in particular will help transform the area into a conference destination and turn day visitors into overnight visitors who will contribute even more to the local economy.”But despite Cllr Smith’s view that the area is in prime position to exit the tough financial times, he admits that the recession has been one of the biggest regrets of his time as Leader of Lichfield District Council. Cutbacks have led to delays in schemes such as the Friarsgate development, with agencies such as Advantage West Midlands deciding to withdraw funding for the project last year. However, the recession may have been a blessing in disguise for Friarsgate, according to Cllr Smith:
“It is one of my biggest regrets that the recession has slowed things down by two years. But in a way if a recession was inevitable it is better that the development was put back rather than us having a half-built scheme that was in mothballs.”