Firms reveal their wish list for growthNov 11, 2014
Over 1,500 companies were asked detailed questions about business performance, growth, challenges and projections to enable SEMLEP to prioritise its activities, and track change and progress since its first survey 12 months ago.
In response to these results SEMLEP, which supports businesses based in Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and parts of Oxfordshire, is to fund a host of transport, skills capital and infrastructure projects in 2015 and to continue to run its Velocity business support service.
Lower business rates are important to 21% of firms surveyed that are planning for growth. 12% called for improved transport infrastructure, while 7% want more business support and advice and to see more inward investment and regeneration. Financial support matters to 6% of the survey.
The Velocity support scheme has supported 550 businesses and awarded more than £300,000 of grants, creating 215 new jobs, since it launched in February.
SEMLEP partnership services manager Gayle Pope said: “Since the launch of Velocity we have seen an overwhelming response to the service which, along with the results from this survey, demonstrates a clear need for a programme of this nature in the South East Midlands. Velocity is here to stay.”
SEMLEP has also secured £79.3 million from the government’s Local Growth Fund to improve transport links, a key part of its target to create 4,200 new jobs and build 3,800 new homes by 2020, said head of infrastructure Hilary Chipping.
The survey also highlighted promising levels of engagement between businesses and universities and colleges in the area. One in eight businesses said they had established research and development links with the institutions, an increase of 4% since 2013.
SEMLEP head of enterprise Lindsay Mitton said: “Many of our universities and colleges are already renowned for their excellence in high performance technologies and advanced engineering, which ties in perfectly with our local employers and clusters of businesses specialising in these areas.
“We are delighted that businesses are already engaging with our universities and colleges and we are committed to supporting this further.”
Barriers to growth are headed by the economic climate (49%), red tape (42%), increasing competition (39%) and high energy costs (39%).
- Over two thirds of businesses in the South East Midlands have rated this area a ‘good’ place to do business;
- The area’s attractive surroundings, road and rail network, good access to suppliers as well as good quality schools all rated highly in the survey;
- Business optimism about the future remains strong as more businesses (64%) are positive about their businesses’ future performance than the previous year (55%);
- There was a three-fold increase in the number of businesses reporting skills shortages.