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Cornwall business start-ups booming

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 17, 2012

Ben Ford and Jess Ratty at the launch of their Cornwall Camper Company

Ben Ford and Jess Ratty at the launch of their Cornwall Camper Company

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The number of new company start-ups have risen in Cornwall but fallen in Devon, sparking concerns that the Duchy's £500 million European funding is creating a two-tier business support landscape.

The number of companies being registered in Cornwall stood at 509 in the third quarter of 2012, compared to 501 in the same period in 2011. Devon saw a 4.5% drop in the number of new companies being set up in the same period in 2011, with 1,080 firms set up, compared to 1,131 the previous year.

Dr Steven Brand, associate professor of economics at Plymouth University, said: "My gut feeling is that it (Convergence) does make a difference. Cornwall has its own Local Enterprise Partnership and feels much more able to manage its own affairs. It does have the additional bonus of the extra funding.

"These things have contributed to an improvement in Cornwall's position – but you have to recognise that it is coming from a long way behind."

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said that he believed that the Convergence funding was allowing Cornwall to offer more support to small businesses.

"I don't think we need to worry too much about it. The issue is growing the peninsula's economy – a successful Cornwall has enormous benefits for Devon," he added.

The figures, from the latest Duport Business Confidence Report, show mixed results across Devon, with Exeter and Plymouth having the same number of start ups in the three month period – at 232 – but with vastly different trends.

Exeter, which is part way through a £1 billion investment programme in projects to the east of the city, experienced a 24.7% increase in the number of new firms.

But Plymouth, which has lost its airport during the recession as well as a number of public sector jobs, saw a 15.3% drop in the number of new businesses.

"Plymouth has seen itself increasingly overlooked from a transport and infrastructure perspective. Exeter does have a natural advantage (in being closer to London) but there doesn't seem to be much coming Plymouth's way," said Dr Brand.

Truro saw a 1.6% increase in the number of new companies while Taunton saw a 4.5% drop. The UK average rate of start up companies for the third quarter, according to Duport, is a 3.8% increase.

Jess Ratty and Ben Ford have recently launched their St Stephen-based camper van rental business The Cornwall Camper Company.

Jess praised the business support available in Cornwall, including the Ignite business plan competition and Grow Cornwall – both European Convergence funded initiatives – as well as the Cornish business community.

"If you've got the ability to go out there and find the support there are loads of people that are willing to support new businesses."

But banks had not been helpful when the couple were trying to get the business off the ground, she said.

"We found in November, with a long winter to get through, that they were not prepared to help at all with a loan until the end of February. Without the support of the people around us we would have gone bankrupt before we launched the business."

The Duport figures are based on the number of new companies registered at Companies House so do not take into effect new sole traders.

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  • Gurnards_Head  |  December 18 2012, 10:59AM

    Cornwall is quietly prospering in spite of convergence not because of it because in the vast majority of cases it is only the consultants who get anything from it. Quiet prosperity is what is needed not boom and bust as we have seen, there are some excellent very tenacious operations that will never set the world alight but none the less provide long term employment and useful services to the community. What is happening is that our economy is evolving to deal with the circumstances it is forced to operate in which are not easy, food production and processing is driving this change as the power of Cornwalls unique brand increasingly becomes more recognisable and accepted. I consider that European funding has been a great disappointment in Cornwall when compared to say Spain where there has been massive investment in infrastructure whereas here we could not even get a 3 mile stretch of the A30 dualled across Bodmin Moor. Much of the available funds were absorbed by SWERDA and squandered to no benefit for the vast majority of Cornish people outside of the orbit of the Eden Project, Maritime Museum or Tremough Campus, good as they may be to some the amall genuine Cornish businesses that really are its backbone got very little.

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  • mrblond  |  December 17 2012, 8:51PM

    Id really like to know where this euro funding is going. I am a new start up and seem to be unable to access any funding whatsoever.

  • Doitdreckley  |  December 17 2012, 8:47PM

    Whats all this about a 'two tier' business landscape? That kind of sloppy journalism assumes that Cornwall and Devon is the same place, which it is not. Cornwall did not start to economically flourish before its divorce from Devon for European funding. Cornwall has a distinct brand and is a better enviroment to do business. I wish Devon well but lets not have sour grapes becuase the boot - at last - is on the other foot.

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  • Droofguy  |  December 17 2012, 5:54PM

    can an increase of EIGHT really be considered a 'Boom' ?? an increase of LESS THAN One Percent... I bet more folded than started during the same period.

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  • josdave  |  December 17 2012, 2:37PM

    I hope all these start-ups manage to keep going but it will be difficult. This is also an indication of the lack of real jobs out there for the unemployed. Nobody can keep a family going on the seasonal or part-time jobs that seem to be the bulk of those on offer. As for tourism the jobs here as with those in the hotel industry are very low paid and are not jobs anyone would aspire to. Cornwall needs to attract real industry paying real wages but so far has done nothing except push tourism which has its uses but is not enough to pay the bills for many families with its low wages for seasonal and part time jobs.

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