It’s unusual to see Peter Symons, the urbane director of business development at Locate in Kent, take centre stage.
But at this week’s launch of the Kent Property Market Report in Dartford, the man who often prefers to be behind the scenes was thrust into the limelight because his boss was on the other side of the Pond.
Paul Wookey, chief executive of the agency that promotes Kent and Medway as great places for business investment, had decided to take a family holiday in the United States. It’s probably the first property review launch he has missed, and there have been 19.
So enter Peter, and he did a good job of chairing an event attended by 200 property experts and guest speakers Paul Carter, KCC leader, Alison Owen, a partner with Maidstone-based specialists Cluttons and Sarah Whitney, head of government and infrastructure at CB Richard Ellis.
With Mr Carter having a far-projecting voice, he abandoned the microphone for his speech, pushing it to one side. But Ms Whitney forgot to restore the mike to his proper position so many delegates could not hear her interesting speech on "place-making."
You could see the shuffling, the reading of documents and the checking of Blackberries. A shame, because one key fact that she revealed was that Kings Hill had been established as an important "place" which had contributed to a 20 per cent premium in property values.
Ms Owen found a roving mike and could be heard clearly. End of shuffling. The overall message to 200 guests was that Kent and Medway had done quite well despite the downturn, better in fact than almost everywhere else, although rents had declined in most markets. We have often said that the county is better-placed than most to ride recession because of its ideal location, high-speed trains and big projects like the Thames Gateway. But the elephant in the Princes Park Stadium was the spending review.
No one was quite sure how that would play with the property and investment market. But with councils and government departments drastically cutting back on spending, as well as laying off thousands, the prospects are not promising. But they can’t take away those assets which could well carry the county through another period of economic uncertainty less battered than elsewhere.