Last Friday I performed the official opening of the Folkestone Pop-up Shop in Guildhall Street. This idea has been taken forward by Ray Johnson and the Folkestone Town Team, and is an innovative way to get empty shops back into use and help new businesses to start trading on the high street. The Pop-up shop offers an easy in, easy out, opportunity for people to sell their products without having to take on the responsibility of a tenancy for the whole space. Instead they can take over just a part of the shop floor and stay for as long as they would like to, paying a small weekly rent back to the Pop-up shop. It was great to see that not only had all of the space in the shop been filled by new businesses, but there is also a waiting list of others wanting to take their place. Most of the businesses are new and have never traded on the high street before. In this way, similar to the business incubator spaces like the Workshop in Tontine Street or the Folkestone Business Hub in West Terrace, new entrepreneurs can take the important first step of moving their business out of their home into a space where they can work alongside other people. These kinds of incubators and pop-up shops are a great way for business people to exchange ideas that will help them to grow. I’d like to wish everyone at the Folkestone Pop-up Shop well and I hope that you will take the chance to call in and meet the people working there.
The latest unemployment figures show that the Folkestone and Hythe constituency is continuing to perform well in creating new jobs. In August there were 443 fewer people out of work that a year ago, and the overall rate is well under half of what it was during the recession. Youth unemployment has also fallen by a third in the last year. These good figures are a result of the hard work and determination of many local businesses who are creating new jobs and investing in the future growth of our area. The strong level of growth in the economy overall is supporting this, and is also helping wages to rise faster than prices.
I want to make sure that we are doing all we can though to support people back into work, or to find the right new opportunity for them. That is why on Thursday next week I am holding my third annual jobs fair at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. This one will be the biggest and best yet, with firms from right across the Shepway area there looking for new recruits. There will also be strong focus on apprenticeships for young people who are leaving school and college, with information available about what’s available and local businesses there who regularly take them on.