Unflinching entrepreneurial spirit in the face of economic adversity has been underlined in North East Lincolnshire.
Welcoming the area’s two MPs to take in E-Factor’s expanding Enterprise Village in Grimsby, Mark Webb, managing director of the business support organisation, told how four of the emerging seven new units have already been taken, with a fifth deal almost sealed.
“Amidst all that is going on this is a real signal of confidence for local business, that there are businesses continuing to grow and planning and plotting their growth,” he said.
“If we want to grow the economy we have got to provide the right accommodation for them and I think, as E-Factor that’s what we do. Modern environments with the wrap around support.”
The £1.1 million speculative investment, built on the site of a neighbouring former smoke house gutted by fire, will be carbon neutral, and when complete at the end of September will feature solar panels and electric vehicle charging points.
Built through the coronavirus lockdown having been granted consent late last year, it has seen the centrally located site behind King Edward Street opened up further, with town firm Topcon on the build-out.
And while two of the companies looking forward to moving in are expansions for existing tenants within the property portfolio that funds the advisor assistance, their current work spaces have been backfilled too.
“We are seeing a massive upturn in start-up enquiries, with people who have been made redundant, perhaps closed a business or are going down a different route,” Mr Webb said.
“People are seeing it as an innovative time to grab the opportunity.
“Lots of local businesses have worked really hard, diversified through this lockdown and some are finding they are doing better. They have looked at new opportunities, seen market failures and are now thrivers. The majority of businesses in North East Lincolnshire would fall into the category of survivors, they are going to get through, from month to month, year to year, determined to employ more people. They are the ones we need, as a borough, to get behind.”
A Loyal to Local social media campaign is encouraging the town to do just that.
“Companies have been taking full advantage of the grants coming through, and the council has done a fantastic job,” Mr Webb said. “I cannot, however, underline enough that we are approaching a really critical time, with the end of furlough – what we do now and after that really matters.
“It has saved a lot of businesses, there is no doubt about that, but we are not out of the woods. We have got to be resolute, to support local businesses through to April, give them support to diversify.”
The Enterprise Village has enjoyed an occupancy rate of 98 per cent in recent years, having clocked up a decade of operation, with part conversion of old factory space and multiple new builds.
Lia Nici, MP for Grimsby, said: “The government has been relaxing a lot of regulations, planning and change of use to try and help these companies grasp the opportunities. It is great businesses are seeing this not just as a challenge, but an opportunity. In the climate of lockdown there have been people using it as thinking time, to re-evaluate where business would go.”
Mr Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes, said businesses had to be “doing the groundwork for taking as many people as possible back on to the payroll” of the 12,500 on furlough in his constituency, but said “sadly it is not going to be 100 per cent, we have got to face that fact.
“Now we have got to do all we can to make sure businesses come out with all the tools to make sure job losses are kept to a minimum.”