IMAGINE a Dorset economy twice the size it is at present, with 80,000 new jobs.

That – along with a 55 per cent increase in productivity – is the 20-year aim of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the body which bids for government cash for the county.

In a report titled Dorset’s Economic Ambition, it sets out its aims to drastically increase the county’s political and economic influence.

To do that, it needs better roads and transport links and better digital connectivity.

Sara Uzzell, deputy chair of Dorset LEP, said the aim was to make sure Dorset was seen by government as a good place to direct grant money.

“We’re doing all we can to sell Dorset as a major player. We’ve got an international airport, an international port, major international businesses based here,” she said.

“We have hundreds of SMEs, a thriving economy. We have a resilient supply chain in Dorset, we have a Premier League football team that’s known around the world.

“We’re trying to push out more and say we have something really special going on here. Perhaps we’ve been a bit shy about promoting it.”

The Dorset’s Economic Ambition report says the county is “an economy with familiar weaknesses but rare ambition”. It shares the national problem of low growth in productivity, and its relative performance has slipped since the start of the century. It can be seen as less dynamic than it really is, the report says.

Dorset LEP director Lorna Carver said the government needed to be shown that it would generate a better return from spending money in Dorset than elsewhere – and that ‘UK plc’ would benefit.

“It’s a bid for funding and we’ve got to be competitive in that and we’ve got to demonstrate our strengths,” she said.

Those strengths include an advanced manufacturing and engineering sector worth £800million in gross value added (GVA) and 17,300 jobs; a creative tech sector worth £363m and 3,800 jobs; and agri-tech and aquaculture, worth £108m and 700 jobs.

As well as the 23,500 students in Bournemouth’s two universities, there are around 18,000 at Weymouth College, Kingston Maurward and Bournemouth and Poole College.

Those three sectors – creative tech, advanced engineering and agri-tech/aquaculture – are singled out for growth in the ambition document.

The reorganisation of local councils is an opportunity for the county to increase its influence, Dorset LEP believes.

It intends to pursue a bid for city status for the conurbation of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch – and it insists that the rest of the county will benefit.

Creating a “vibrant and sustainable 21st century by the sea” will mean a “city the size of Bristol supporting the wider Dorset and vice versa”, the report says.

“We should have the same weight with government as other places of similar size,” said Lorna Carver of the city proposal.

“Considering it will be the same size at Bristol, it should have the same voice as Bristol, representing 350,000 people.”

The LEP believes changes in local government could also be key to dealing with the challenges that come with growth – such as affordable housing and limits on infrastructure.

“You need to plan for future growth. There’s a really good opportunity in Dorset with all the change that’s happening across health and local authorities,” said Lorna Carver.

“There are a lot of talented people here so there need to be jobs for local people, but you need to be able to attract new people into the place. It’s all about the place, making it a nice place to live and work.

“Eighty people a week are moving out of London to go to Bristol. We want this place to feel desirable and for it to be somewhere people want to go.”