MEET THE CEO Gavin Cleary

Kent Life - - Business Life - WORDS: Sarah Sturt PHO­TOS: Manu Palomeque

Lo­cate in Kent CEO Gavin Cleary on help­ing busi­nesses large and small achieve their po­ten­tial

Tell us about you

I’m orig­i­nally from Belfast but have lived in Eng­land for 23 years. I stud­ied En­gi­neer­ing and then Eco­nomics at Cam­bridge and was spon­sored through univer­sity by Ford Mo­tor Com­pany. I worked in fi­nan­cial ser­vices in the City for 11 years be­fore mov­ing into eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. My last role was run­ning an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tancy with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on Fin­tech and al­ter­na­tive fi­nance.

What at­tracted you to the job?

I was ex­cited to take the lead in pro­mot­ing a lo­ca­tion with such a strong of­fer across many sec­tors. Kent and Med­way’s close prox­im­ity to Lon­don for busi­nesses seek­ing a cost­ef­fec­tive lo­ca­tion with a deep tal­ent pool, which is a fan­tas­tic place to live along with the con­nec­tiv­ity to the rest of Europe, were also of key im­por­tance. There is clear co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor across the county, which is hugely im­por­tant in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Thanks to pre­vi­ous leader Paul Wookey’s ex­pert stew­ard­ship, I in­her­ited a wellestab­lished, suc­cess­ful com­pany with a great team in place.

Tell us about Lo­cate in Kent Lo­cate in Kent ex­ists to pro­mote Kent and Med­way to any busi­ness look­ing to trade from the county. It also sup­ports the growth and de­vel­op­ment of ex­ist­ing Kent and Med­way busi­nesses. Since start­ing in 1997, Lo­cate in Kent has helped more than 1100 busi­nesses set up or ex­pand in the county and sup­ported the cre­ation or re­ten­tion of more than 70,000 jobs. The sup­port we pro­vide is free of charge to all of the busi­nesses we work with – and this is across our port­fo­lio.

Im­pact of Brexit?

It’s clear that greater cer­tainty about the with­drawal process is re­quired by busi­nesses, and we have this front of mind. How­ever, the un­cer­tainty does not prevent us from mak­ing our county strengths clear; we con­tinue to be a highly con­nected re­gion, not only to Europe by rail and road but via the in­ter­na­tional air­ports of Heathrow and Gatwick. Com­mer­cial prop­erty is still up to 60 per cent lower in rental or pur­chase price than in Lon­don, ev­i­dent in the very re­cent dis­tri­bu­tion space taken by Ama­zon in Med­way.

Any ca­reer ad­vice? Un­der­stand­ing the driv­ers and mo­ti­va­tions for busi­nesses to ex­pand is es­sen­tial, whether this be ac­cess to more cus­tomers or mar­kets, ac­cess to tal­ent and ex­per­tise or the right phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion. Suc­cess­ful peo­ple in this sec­tor can come from con­sul­tan­cies, busi­ness-fac­ing gov­ern­ment roles or busi­ness de­vel­op­ment roles in fast-grow­ing com­pa­nies. A keen in­ter­est in eco­nomics, pol­i­tics and how the world works def­i­nitely helps. Build­ing net­works is key, so the abil­ity to al­ways keep at the back of your mind those whom you have met and to con­nect them at

the right time, can make all the dif­fer­ence. Un­der­stand­ing how to put to­gether and ap­praise a busi­ness plan and a bal­ance sheet is also a bonus.

How do you re­lax?

I have a very lively eight-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl who both keep me busy. I love cook­ing new things and also tra­di­tional dishes for fam­ily and friends, of­ten in­spired by my trav­els (or MasterChef). I love read­ing and keep­ing up with pol­i­tics and cur­rent af­fairs.

Break­fast this morn­ing? Brown toast, home-made jam from Kent, fruit and black cof­fee.

Get in touch

Lo­cate In Kent, First Floor, In­ter­na­tional House, Dover Place, Ashford TN23 1HU

01732 520700

ABOVE:Gavin Cleary, CEO of Lo­cate in Kent

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