Maidstone Borough Council’s award success was announced at the IED Annual Awards 2018, staged as part of the IED Annual Conference. Held at BMA House in London, the awards recognise economic development success stories and this accolade highlights the positive impact that The Business Terrace has had on Maidstone’s business community.
Since it opened in September 2015, The Business Terrace has provided support to more than 600 entrepreneurs, start-up companies and established businesses. It sought to address the issue that between 2008-2011 business failure rates outnumbered business births as a result of the tough economic climate following the financial crisis. In 2014, seven out of 10 newly-registered businesses locally failed within two years, so the Council established a business support programme linked to business space provision.
The Business Terrace itself was created from redundant council office space and it has subsequently expanded three times. Applicants must be within three years of establishing their business, able to prove they plan to take advantage of the support offer, and demonstrate a willingness to collaborate, create jobs and grow in Maidstone. Due to the need to support start-up businesses in the early stage, a two-year limit on the incubator offices is applied to ensure that The Business Terrace stays true to its founding principle to help new companies.
Figures indicate that the scheme is already having a positive impact on the town, local residents and businesses: 644 individuals have received face-to-face support, 444 people have received face-to-face support with an advisor and 266 people have attended workshops. In 2015, there were 5,059 businesses within Maidstone in the 0-4 employment band size. In 2017, there were 5,590, an increase of more than 10% in two years. Many supported businesses have recruited employees from the local area, so while the number of businesses has grown, so too has the number of people employed by them. Maidstone is now proudly top of the league in Kent for business survival rates.
Sean Henry, economic development business centre co-ordinator at Maidstone Borough Council, who collected the award at the IED Annual Conference, said: “This project was designed as a business hub and a serious statement of the Council’s intent to demonstrate that it is both ‘open for business’ and has a true understanding of what businesses require to be able to survive and thrive. The Business Terrace also addressed the loss of office accommodation to permitted development by providing flexible and affordable workspace for local start-ups. Our scheme could easily be adapted by other local authorities looking to support, develop, grow and attract start-up businesses. The approach can, and should, be repeated elsewhere to boost local economies. We are proud to have been recognised by the IED for the quality of our work in supporting local businesses.”
IED chair Bev Hurley said: “We would like to congratulate Maidstone Borough Council on winning our Best Implementation award for 2018. Our judging panel was most impressed by the assiduous manner in which outputs had been determined and measured. The Business Terrace has not only been successful – but its success can be clearly demonstrated through take-up, performance and financial measures.”