This week the latest survey published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows more growing confidence as the economy recovers. Small businesses collectively are the major employers in this country, as more people work for them than for large firms. They are also closer to the ground and more sensitive to changes in the economy; which makes these positive survey results all the more encouraging. According to the FSB survey growing numbers of small businesses are seeing increasing levels of sales, taking on more staff, and expect to raise the salaries of their employees this year above the rate of inflation.
Locally, there are lots of positive signs of small businesses growth, and more people starting their own businesses. The Workshop in Tontine Street is a busy hub of new and growing businesses, where around 100 people now work. I will also be holding my regular business surgery there this Friday at 1pm. Some of the tenants of The Workshop have now branched out with new ventures to support other people who are interested in starting up on their own. Jo Strickland ran her accountancy business from The Workshop and has now taken over a large space on the first floor of the office building by the war memorial on The Leas. This space was also used last year for the site office during the construction of the Step Short memorial arch, and has spectacular views along the coast. On Friday I visited Jo at her new offices to hear about her plans which include creating a community business incubator space, tailored around the needs to new companies. Alongside the start-up businesses, will be experienced firms offering services like accountancy and IT support. This is an excellent initiative, and will further enhance Folkestone’s growing reputation as a great place for start-ups. I believe that business incubators really work well for new companies as the people working there support each other, share ideas, and sometimes work on new joint ventures. We have also seen successful business incubator units established in New Romney at the Romney Marsh Business Centre in Mountfield Road.
Last Friday I joined Bob O’Connor, the Managing Director of the Port Lympne Reserve for the opening of Pinewood, the new collection of wooden camping pods on the estate. Each pod can sleep four people and provides all the fun of camping, without having to bring your own kit, or pitch a tent. Pinewood is the latest development in the accommodation offered on the Port Lympne estate, following the ‘glamping’ experience at the Livingstone and Elephant Lodges, and the opening last summer of the mansion house as a boutique hotel. The money made from the accommodation goes back into the running of the wildlife reserve on the estate and the valuable animal conservation work of the Aspinall Foundation. It is great to see Port Lympne continue to go from strength to strength, as one of our major tourist attractions and local employers.