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Mixed messages should not detract entrepreneurs

30th January 2012

A recent report by the Centre for Cities places the North East’s three biggest centres of population at or close to the bottom of a league table for business start-ups. Out of the 64 places surveyed for Cities Outlook 2012, Newcastle came 58th, Middlesbrough 61st, and Sunderland 64th and bottom.

Before passing comment on this, I think it is important to place them in perspective amongst other recent independent findings of the past 12 months; The North East was recently rated as the second highest area for patent applications, we have the highest growing IT sector outside of London and, conversely to this new report, I was asked to comment on a Royal Mail survey in April last year which showed Sunderland as an enterprise hotspot – the third highest area for start ups in the country.

However, in direct response to the Centre for Cities findings, it must be noted that the survey is based around measurement of VAT registered companies only. We have many excellent businesses in the North East which operate under the VAT threshold (due to the increase in cost of living, these may not be seen as viable operations in the South). The fact that these are not included in the figures really undersells the entrepreneurial spirit of our region.

Of course it is very difficult for start ups to access funding in the current economic climate, but the government is making some money available: Along with our partners, the North East BIC runs the New Entrepreneurs Allowance, where unemployed individuals can access business support and an allowance of up to £1,000 to help them during the all important early days in business.

Finally, the developing abilities and aspirations of the upcoming entrepreneurial generation cannot be measured in these surveys, but the work that we do in schools gives me a lot of faith for the future of our region. Young people in the North East have superb ideas and, with our help, are becoming capable of delivering upon them in the future. 

I do hope that mixed messages and inconclusive surveys do not detract anyone from considering self-employment as a viable option. The closure of Business Link and the disappearance of One North East may have dampened the spirits of some would-be entrepreneurs, but access to free business support is avaliable, from the BIC and elsewhere, and can help you with all the elements you need to get up and running in enterprise. 

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