Shepway District Council's business website states that it is stimulating growth by:
1. Building Better Relationships with Business - through our Shepway Business Forum and a programme of 1-2-1 visits.
2. Investing in Apprenticeships - the council is offering support through a brokerage service and grants of £1,500 per apprentice. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Providing Local Business Advice and Support - especially to start-up businesses.
4. Improving Broadband Provision in areas of employment.
5. Encouraging greater provision of modern incubator space in the district to help stimulate business creation.
These all sound like positive moves, but personally I think Shepway needs to go a stage further.
Harlow Council, which came top of the list in today's report, has its own Enterprise Hub which has 1,953sqm (21,027ft) (net) of easy-in, easy-out, lettable workspace in a prominent location. The hub offers tenants access to sound, impartial business advice and business support services as part of their tenancy agreement. It is located near to a local rail station and offers free parking.
Sandwell offers the award winning http://www.finditinsandwell.co.uk/, which is a local business directory with a difference. It links employers, potential employees, tradespeople and suppliers as well as helping companies to win larger contracts through networking events.
Fareham Council has bought the freehold on various business properties which it lets out to start up businesses on flexible short-term leases. This is alongside its own enterprise centre, similar to that of Harlow, which the Council owns the freehold to but which is run by Enterprise First (www.enterprisefirst.co.uk).
Now the chances are that some of this is already happening and has merely not reached my radar. Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce, for example, offers excellent networking opportunities for local businesses.
Shepway District Council, however, should take note. If we are to truly utilise the excellent potential we have in the area, we need to look around at what's working and take decisive action to encourage businesses to set up in and move to Shepway.