Our Man in Westminster
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.