Having contributed strongly to an estimated £110 million increase in the value of the South West economy during 2007, Business Link in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and Somerset is poised to do even more in 2008 and beyond to help the region’s small businesses face up to potentially turbulent conditions.
That was the overriding message at a conference marking the end of an extraordinary 12 months for the service and other contracted business support services across the South West.
According to Adam Chambers who heads up the senior management team at Business Link , “We have a raft of innovative and inspiring new services on the way. The introduction of over 20 local access points for ‘on-the-doorstep’ face-to-face advice and guidance is well underway, and we have a determined focus to forge new and stronger partnerships with the region’s leading public and private sector organisations. So we’re confident that our support network will be able to help even more businesses prosper, even in the tougher economic times we’re moving into.”
This is within the context of a highly successful 2007-08 when, despite the transition to a combined organisation under Peninsula Enterprise, Business Link across the three counties helped over 40,000 people starting, running or growing a business. These included 7,800 either launching or in the first few months of a new business and 2,800 needing in-depth support to drive better performance and stronger growth.
According to Adam, “Despite the many challenges of transition, we still achieved customer satisfaction levels of over 90%, and we want to do even better this year.”
Eight of Business Link’s new Outreach Centres in towns and areas across the region have already been opened – including Bridgwater, Truro, Torbay, Camborne, Penwith, Teignbridge, Exeter Innovation Centre, Plymouth East End and Ivybridge. Plans are progressing at a pace for many more to be opened later this year throughout the three counties. Says Adam Chambers, “This major programme is designed purely to give our customers what they most want – simplified, rapid access to business services from across our region, available right on their doorstep.”
As well as the Business Link service a range of other contracted services including Train to Gain, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and SW Rural Enterprise Gateway (SWREG) services in the South West have experienced a very successful twelve months. Some of the highlights from the last year include:
- Train to Gain: more than 3,800 businesses committed to increasing skills with Train to Gain, with 2,800 actively proceeding. 14,470 learners have been referred to fully funded Level 2 or 3 training, and a further 2,500 to other learning opportunities
- UKTI: the top-rated English region for satisfaction among customers seeking export opportunities, signing up 83 companies to the Passport to Export programme and significantly assisting 141 others develop and implement plans
- SWREG: supported over 2,700 farming or rural businesses, 139 fisheries and related firms and 263 food-related businesses, as well as delivering 1,588 training days under Defra’s Vocational Training Scheme.
“Together, and with our growing numbers of partners, we’re at the heart of a powerful South West-wide business support network that’s set to do more and more in the years to come, making the South West the region that inspires enterprise, in every sense of the word,” Adam continues.
According to Rosemary Wells, Director of Business Services at the South West RDA, “Business Link has had a highly successful year, creating value across the South West of England by helping tens of thousands of people make a successful start in business and build strong, competitive companies. The team is highly motivated and committed to making the South West the best place to start, run and grow a business.”
Anyone keen to find out more about how Business Link, Train to Gain, UKTI and SWREG can help them launch and grow a business should call 0845 600 9966 or visit www.businesslinksw.co.uk.
Note to the Editor
The first of the region’s ‘Building Business, Building Skills, Building the Network’ Conferences was held by Peninsula Enterprise at The China Fleet Country Club, Saltash, Cornwall on 20th May 2008.