EMBRACING migrant communities may be vital to the prosperity of Huntingdonshire’s town centre, business leaders believe.

They are about to set up a web-based network aimed at bringing the largest of those groups in the district - migrants from Poland who have been entitled to live and work in the UK since Poland joined the EU in May 20005 - more closely into the wider community.

www.polishfacesuk.com is a collaboration between Bob Garbett, chairman of Huntingdonshire business networking group O4RB - which is currently the only pre-launch member - and former Huntingdonshire Chamber of Commerce chairman and present chairman of Huntingdonshire Manufacturers' Association Stuart Gibbons, whose wife, Krystyna, speaks Polish like a native.

The idea emerged during a conversation at Huntingdon Community Radio, but the station cannot be directly involved for regulatory reasons that require it to monitor exactly what is being said on the air, Mr Gibbons told The Hunts Post.

At present, even within the Polish community in the district, business communication is achieved through advertisements in delicatessens or websites in Eastern Europe.

The software for the new site has been developed by Mr Garbett, who runs a software support company, RMIS Limited, in Huntingdon.

Initially, input to the bilingual site will be provided by Mrs Gibbons, Mr Garbett and Polish migrant Magda Jankowska, who works for Stuart Gibbons's Houghton-based Le Mark company, which does extensive business in Eastern Europe.

"We shall work this up progressively to provide a forum so that traders have the opportunity to market services in the community, for example if they're setting up a hairdressing business or a taxi service," Mr Gibbons said.

A straw poll he and his wife conducted in Huntingdon town centre last weekend by eavesdropping on shoppers' conversations suggested that as many as 35 per cent had their origins in Poland.

"That's a lot of potential business. Huntingdon would struggle without the Polish community. Huntingdonshire Regional College is now running Polish lessons - that's how important it is to the community.

"We hope to launch the site within the next few weeks, and we shall be looking for low-cost sponsorship," he added.

INFORMATION: Huntingdonshire Manufacturers' Association's and UK Trade and Investment will be hosting a free export seminar tomorrow morning (Thursday) in the Civic Suite in Huntingdon between 8am and noon.