An exciting future

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As Business Link’s Convergence business support programme draws to a close, Peninsular Enterprise CEO Adam Chambers reflects back on its success and looks forward to emerging opportunities

When we all come to look back at the ‘interesting’ year that was been 2010, we’ll probably regard it as the moment when a radical shift in the way business support is provided – across the UK, but perhaps most particularly across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – started to emerge.

For this was not just the year when the coalition Government began its programme of spending cuts to help UK plc balance its books – it was also when a new, more locally-focused, business support landscape was outlined. And it was when the forthcoming closure was confirmed of our current approach to enhanced business support under the Convergence programme, which aims to help the county’s most innovative and ambitious businesses reach their full potential.

But, both for us at Peninsula Enterprise and for businesses right across the county, this should not be a moment for disappointment or frustration. Rather, it represents a fantastic opportunity for existing and new relationships and partnerships between public and private sector organisations throughout Cornwall.

That said, we mustn’t forget that the enhanced Convergence business support programme, delivered by Peninsula Enterprise over the last couple of years, has been highly successful.

First, the big picture: our unique model of tailored advice, Development Vouchers and brokerage has made a substantial difference to the region’s economy. Over the period, our service helped to grow businesses, increased high-level employment and wages, and helped reduce the environmental impact of the Cornish business community.

The headline achievement is certainly the forecast increase in GVA (that’s Gross Value Added) that the service has contributed to. This stands at an enormously impressive £80 million, driven entirely by the county’s business growth during a period of financial crisis and recession.

The enhanced service contributed to this growth by targeting its support on those fast-growing businesses that do a disproportionate amount to benefit the region’s economy – those that have the biggest positive impact on investment, employment growth and wealth.

Out of the close to 28,000 Cornish businesses we worked with altogether, around 1,500 were identified as meeting the Convergence criteria.

Of these, we were involved with over 1,000 growth projects, and we made close to 2,000 referrals to our public and private sector partners on behalf of more than 820 of them. We also believe that our work has also been directly responsible for the creation of 1,500 jobs for highly skilled people.

Now, though, our focus is on the future. Above all, we remain passionate about the fantastic county that is Cornwall – a truly unique county with an utterly unique business landscape. I have to say that helping Cornish businesses is in the DNA of Peninsula Enterprise, and we are determined to expand and strengthen our presence across the county.

So we are looking forward to the emerging opportunities for us to support businesses in Cornwall. It is great to see widespread enthusiasm for the forthcoming Local Enterprise Partnership, and I believe that we have lots to offer that will help it in delivering its objectives.

Special funding will be there to help them – it must be used in the most effective way, enabling Cornish businesses to maximise this fantastic advantage that’s available to them. And we are very confident that Peninsula Enterprise has the resources, the expertise and sheer will to help everybody make the most of it.

www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest

This article appears in the February issue of Business Cornwall magazine