Stoke LEP

Mohammed Ahmed, National Grid; Wendy Dean, Strategi Solutions; Paul Farmer, Wade Ceramics; and Alun Rogers, risual.

Four new business leaders join LEP board

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has welcomed four new local business people onto its board.

Mohammed Ahmed, Wendy Dean, Paul Farmer and Alun Rogers will all take up their duties in September and were selected from a large number of applicants for the roles, which are unpaid.

Stoke-on-Trent born and bred, Mohammed Ahmed, is senior finance business partner with National Grid and also owns the Qarma restaurant in Leek, which he runs with his father.

After gaining a degree in biochemistry from Imperial College London, he chose a career in strategy management and commercial investment accountancy.

His career has taken him to leading businesses including Gillette, HBOS, where he was head of finance, and BT, where he led a business transformation programme, before he joined National Grid three years ago.

“I am really passionate about my home area. This is a great place to live and work and I am looking forward to working with the LEP to help it continue to thrive and grow,” he said.

Wendy Dean is managing director of Newcastle-under-Lyme HR and business change consultancy Strategi Solutions Group, which she founded two years ago and which now has a team of 14 staff.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Institute of Leadership and Management, her career has included overseeing a culture change programme as HR director at Newcastle firm ANC Parcels, which later became part of the FedEx group. She then moved to Steelite as group HR director, where she led its ‘Stepping Up To The Plate’ change programme.

In the two years since she launched Strategi Solutions, it has expanded to take in a wide range of HR functions, training and coaching, business transformation, PR and graphic design. Her clients range from SMEs to Staffordshire University, NFT Distribution and Palletforce. Wendy’s hobbies include travelling in her 1979 VW camper van, nicknamed Wallace.

As chair of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce employment and skills forum, she takes a particular interest in skills. “It is very important that businesses and education work together to prepare young people for the world of work, and to promote continuing learning and aspiration in the workplace,” she said.

Paul Farmer OBE has been managing director of Wade Ceramics since 2001 after joining the firm as finance director in 1995. A management accountant by training, he began his career with Wedgwood and his subsequent experience has included posts with firms in the food manufacturing, sanitaryware and aerospace industries.

His time at Wade has seen a successful management buyout of the Stoke-on-Trent business in 1999 and the construction of a £14m high-tech new factory, which opened in 2009.

Paul, who was appointed OBE for services to the ceramics industry, is president of the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce and his hobbies include cookery and fine wines.

“I see my role at the LEP as helping to make things happen, making the most of the fantastic opportunities available in this region and helping businesses to invest and progress,” he said.

Alun Rogers co-founded Stafford-based IT firm risual with business partner Richard Proud in 2005, building on his previous experience as an IT consultant.

The duo self-funded the launch of the business, which has gone on to win numerous awards and become a Microsoft strategic partner for public and private sector clients.

The firm provides IT consultancy, systems management and service support, plus a suite of IT systems, and today employs some 120 staff.

Beginning with Stafford College, risual has partnered with a range of FE colleges across the country to set up risual academies providing training in digital and IT skills, and Alun said his key interests with the LEP would be in developing education and apprenticeship opportunities and embedding digital as integral to the local economy.

“It is important to raise the profile of digital and its vital role in helping businesses thrive,” he said. “I am also passionate about giving people opportunities and increasing their interest in technical and IT skills - and apprenticeships are a very good way to do that.”

Outside work, Alun’s interests include DIY and house renovation, and attending music festivals.

LEP chairman David Frost CBE said he was delighted to welcome four new board members with such a wide range of business experience and in-depth knowledge.

“Their combined experience covers an impressive range of business sectors and parts of the LEP region and they will be a fantastic asset in our task of growing the local economy, improving skills levels and bringing more and better jobs,” he said. 

“It is extremely encouraging that we received so many very strong applications from business people seeking to join the LEP, and an illustration of the importance of our role in growing the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire economy.

“The LEP will continue to work with all our business and public sector partners to seize growth opportunities and ensure that our region continues to prosper and flourish.”

The four new business members replace outgoing board members Kerry Diamond, Jonathan Dale, Ken Stepney and John Carr. It is hoped that the retiring members will continue informal links with the LEP as ‘ambassadors’ for the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area.