Businesses in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire should be shouting more loudly about their successes, a meeting to showcase business growth in the area heard this week.
The county and city are home to leading businesses in sectors ranging from advanced manufacturing to tourism, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership board member Jonathan Dale told a Growth Hub Showcase at Tillington Hall Hotel, Stafford, on Tuesday (April 12).
“Underneath all that we have lots of little companies beavering away making all sorts of high quality and niche products,” he said. “Do we tell people about it? No we don’t – but we certainly should.”
Mr Dale, who leads on business growth and innovation for the LEP, highlighted the range of help available to firms through its Growth Hub.
This includes the Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002, a source of free advice on all kinds of business queries; the Growth Hub advisers, who provide more detailed face-to-face advice and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs and established firms alike; and the Regional Growth Fund, administered by the LEP, which provides gap funding for Stoke and Staffordshire firms looking to expand.
Mr Dale said the efforts of these programmes had contributed to creating more than 20,000 new jobs across the area since the LEP was founded in 2011.
“Stoke and Staffordshire is on the move,” he said. “We have got the resources, we have got the facilities, we have got the skills and it is up to us to put it all together and deliver.”
He called on businesses to follow the example of the area’s industrial pioneers. “Wedgwood has had its ups and downs but it has lasted because Josiah Wedgwood was commercial, he had vision and he pushed the business forward,” he said. “We have a legacy and a heritage, so let’s use it positively. The future is good for Stoke and Staffordshire.”
The Growth Hub Showcase also heard from two businesses which had benefited from support and advice.
Swynnerton-based Orbital, an international specialist in equipment for the gas industry, received £300,000 in gap funding from the Growth Fund to support its £2.7million investment in expanded premises. The result is a state-of-the art manufacturing site, along with research labs and training facilities, which has helped the business create 80 new jobs in the past two years, Orbital’s head of manufacturing Andrew Wood told the event.
“We now have a UK centre of excellence that has placed Orbital and Staffordshire on the world map,” he said.
Meanwhile Kyle Raffo, managing director of Tamworth web and multimedia design firm Expand Digital, paid tribute to Growth Hub mentor Richard Lloyd for his advice in helping grow the business. “It is great to have someone to bounce ideas off and help me identify opportunities,” he said.
Mr Raffo, 22, founded Expand Digital when he was just 17. The firm now employs 12 people and has a £1.2million annual turnover.
Speakers at the event also included Mentoring for Growth programme manager John Thompson and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Jobs and Growth Fund manager Matt Hustwit.
Picture, from left, are Kyle Raffo, Jonathan Dale and Andrew Wood.
The Growth Hub was established by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to drive strong, sustainable business growth. It is funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills and delivered by Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce and is a focal point for businesses that wish to grow, linking them to specialist information, advice and services.
Businesses can access free support and advice by contacting the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub on 0300 111 8002.