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Norfolk and Suffolk urged to embrace entrepreneurship after record year for start-ups

PUBLISHED: 10:24 09 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:22 09 February 2016

Andrew Wilson of NWES speaking at the launch of the Future 50. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Andrew Wilson of NWES speaking at the launch of the Future 50. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Figures show that 2015 was a record year for new businesses in Norfolk – but the county continues to lag behind the national average.

In total, 4,296 new companies were set up in Norfolk last year, a rise of 5.1pc from 4,086 in 2014, according to data compiled by Inform Direct from Companies House and the Office of National Statistics.

That puts the county ahead of its neighbour Suffolk (4,031) but behind Cambridgeshire (6,235) and Lincolnshire (5,879), leaving it ranked 36th out of 47 areas for new company formations.

Norfolk’s 32,493 companies mean that there are 37.8 per 1,000 people in the county, compared to a national average of 59.4.

Andrew Wilson, head of enterprise services at business support agency NWES, said driving that figure higher was important to the local economy.

“The fact is that people will fail, so you need as many as possible to start with. These start-ups will go on to be the employers of the future, so you need that healthy start-up rate to deliver jobs growth,” he said.

Mr Wilson said there was work to be done in building a culture of aspiration, and setting strong examples to would-be entrepreneurs through schemes like the Future50, which recognises Norfolk and Suffolk’s most innovative companies.

Salena Dawson, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Norfolk, said that while certain long-standing concerns for Norfolk businesses had been resolved in the past year, they had been replaced by others.

“Infrastructure and broadband have long been bugbears, but the opening of the A11 has shown positivity towards SMEs in the area.

“While the old ones fade away, new ones are coming along – such as four-quarterly reporting and auto-enrolment,” she said.

A general mood of confidence 
was being undermined by uncertainty over developments affecting smaller businesses, in particular auto-enrolment pension changes 
and the introduction of the government’s new National Living Wage, she added.

“Our SMEs could be more cautious as to investing in their own businesses until they have seen what the impact of those two schemes will be.”

Scott Walker set up Solar Signs and Graphics in Roundtree Way, Norwich, last summer, said small businesses were used to adapting to thrive.

He said: “Our new business needs other new businesses, so it’s [the start-up figures] good news for us.

“I would have expected us to be in a worse position than we are now. We deal with the challenges as they happen,” he added.

Are you a growing start-up? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk

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