Our Man in West­min­ster

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View - By Damian Green

Ev­ery­one recog­nises the need to help new busi­nesses start up, and there­fore the need for suit­able work spa­ces to be avail­able for them. Equally im­por­tant, but less of­ten men­tioned, is the need to al­low small firms to grow fast. Of­ten this is the best way to cre­ate jobs.

At a re­cent dis­cus­sion with the Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce sev­eral peo­ple said Ash­ford needed of­fice or fac­tory space for pre­cisely this kind of busi­ness.

So a re­port from Oc­to­pus, the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm, is in­ter­est­ing in that it de­tails the con­tri­bu­tion of th­ese high growth small busi­nesses.

Oc­to­pus de­fines th­ese as hav­ing turnover be­tween £1m and £20m, a min­i­mum of 20% growth in turnover over the last three years, and a min­i­mum 20% growth in em­ploy­ees over the same pe­riod.

In Ash­ford, of the firms of this size 33 have grown sales by this amount and eight have in­creased the size of their work­force by more than a fifth.

Ash­ford’s top high growth com­pa­nies gen­er­ated sales of £26m last year, and em­ployed 275 peo­ple, with 62 new jobs since 2012. There are now 118 com­pa­nies with turnover of more than one mil­lion pounds a year. Of course we should not for­get the new busi­nesses still be­ing cre­ated. Since 2010 2,408 new firms have been started up, and the most en­cour­ag­ing sign here is the ac­cel­er­a­tion in this growth in re­cent years. 2014 saw 781 new busi­nesses in Ash­ford, a star­tling in­crease of 66% over the pre­vi­ous year.

All of this helps ex­plain why un­em­ploy­ment in Ash­ford is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the rest of the South East, let alone the na­tional fig­ure.

But there is al­ways more to do, so we need to en­sure that we have the right premises avail­able lo­cally to al­low th­ese busi­nesses to grow and pros­per.

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