Recruiting, retaining and developing staff is one of the main barriers to business growth for small and medium size enterprises (SME’s), according to a survey of businesses in Suffolk Coastal. The survey found widespread optimism for economic growth , along with a desire by rural businesses to be taken seriously by the authorities responsible for delivering support. 4,760 VAT registered businesses in the district outnumbered the urban count of 3,035 in Ipswich according to 2013 records.

Rural business leaders stressed the need for greater acknowledgement and attention on SME’s to overcome barriers such as access to finance, availability of high speed broadband, staffing issues and business rates. Jenny Stockman, chairman of Heritage Coast Market Towns Initiative (HCMTI), which conducted the survey, said that with new initiatives coming through like the introduction of New Anglia LEP’s Growth Fund and the Growth Hubs, together with a strengthening of communication with the SME’s via business associations and groups, there was real hope of addressing the situation.

Funding worth £3.9m secured through the City Deal, will be used to help create a Growth Hub service in 2014, with the aim of providing better access to national and local business support for both rural and urban businesses and entrepreneurs across Suffolk and Norfolk. It is hoped that this activity will support over 1000 businesses and create over 200 new start-ups across the two counties. Mrs Stockman said:

“Growing the economy in Suffolk depends upon the prosperity and growth of our businesses. To help them grow sustainably, be more resilient and capitalise upon opportunities to expand, existing businesses and potential entrepreneurs need access to the right kind of advice and support.”

Business support is identified as one of the main enablers of growth in Suffolk alongside the development of a local skills system that is responsive to the needs of employers and supports economic growth. Initiatives such as HCMTI, Suffolk Business Hub, local business associations and strategically placed business hubs like Framlingham Technology Centre are working with a wealth of partners to deliver training, influence broadband delivery, promote apprenticeships, source finance, facilitate networking and effectively signpost. The Suffolk Business Hub are hosting a free Ready For Growth event at Framlingham Technology Centre on 21st March.

This will bring together many support providers including New Anglia LEP, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, MENTA, Manufacturing Advisory Service and GrowthAccelerator and delegates will be treated toa presentation by Julia Hunter on her success story with Oily Rag, the company she took for her kitchen table to successfully supplying John Lewis. More details at