Philippa Batting, Managing Director of Buckinghamshire Business First
It’s certainly been a very strange year. The world has been fighting the worst pandemic seen for generations. Lots of established ways of doing things have been challenged. The adoption of technology that we thought would take years has happened in less than 12 months. Our ability to take cars off the roads has surprised everyone.
It has taken every ounce of strength of character and ingenuity for business leaders to manoeuvre the very challenging conditions they find themselves operating in. In Buckinghamshire, we are seeing the effect of the pandemic at all ends of the spectrum. Heartbreakingly, we are seeing some businesses close their doors for the last time as there simply aren’t the reserves on the balance sheet to weather the storm. Heart-warmingly, we are seeing some businesses prosper and thrive with many capitalising on new opportunities arising from the pandemic.
Our £17 billion economy is underpinned by high employment rates and business survival rates, a prevalence of high growth firms and the highest proportion of very small companies in Britain. These characteristics have helped ensure Buckinghamshire’s economic resilience in previous challenging times and research by Buckinghamshire LEP suggests our local economy is slightly less reliant on some of the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19 than the wider national economy.
Activity levels at Buckinghamshire Business First have remained high, something you would expect during a crisis that took businesses far beyond the realm of regular contingency planning. Throughout the year, we have carried out more than 52,000 business assists. If the phrase ‘business assist’ sounds cold and impersonal, think of an assist as an email with a link to grant funding that a business didn’t know existed, a reassuring phone call that explains when a business may be able to reopen, or helping a self-employed individual understand the support on offer to them.
More than £6.7 million has been distributed to businesses at the coalface in grant funding. This funding, alongside business support programmes delivered by Buckinghamshire Business First, is projected to create more than 700 new jobs and 300 new products or services. With these figures, we are set to meet or exceed all of our business support targets for the year. Despite the pandemic, businesses have themselves invested a combined £1.78 million of match-funding for their grants where match was required.
Looking to the future, we now also have the benefit of a new team within business support offering businesses help regarding the end of the EU Transition period. The team will offer specialist advice and one-to-one support to help businesses navigate this additional challenge for 2021.
All of this activity and support may explain why 96% of businesses who have engaged with our Growth Hub would recommend Buckinghamshire Business First to a friend. A business has nothing to lose and lots to gain from contacting the team. Tel: 01494 927130. Email: BusinessSupport@bbf.uk.com.