Swindon businesses are heading into election year with confidence higher than ever, according to the yearly business confidence report from Regus, the global workplace provider. Based on the views of business owners and senior managers, the ninth edition of the Regus Business Confidence Index (BCI) – which is heavily based on actual performance over the last 12 months – reveals a 17 point rise from 116 points to 133. This reflects the national trend; UK figures show a 7 point rise from 117 points to 124. Swindon, like a number of similar sized towns in the UK, has found business a challenge over recent years.
The recession back in 2008 brought into sharp focus the need for businesses to develop and deliver growth strategies and in some cases defensive survival strategies.
The situation is clearly becoming more positive, not just in Swindon, but across the UK. GDP in the UK grew by 0.7% in the third fiscal quarter of 2014/15 bringing the annual growth rate up to 2.6% (Office for National Statistics). Swindon is certainly playing its part in that growth and is increasingly seen as an economic hotspot both currently and also in the near future.
The town has been ranked tenth in a table that identifies areas with ‘vibrant and dynamic’ economies capable of supporting expansion, in a report published by accountants Grant Thornton ‘The High Growth Index’. Along with a number of other reports it shows Swindon’s economy to be resilient and also extremely well placed to grow out of recession through its strong and diverse skilled workforce coupled with the entrepreneurial powerhouse of small and medium sized enterprises.
A recent ‘Centre for Cities’ report showed that Swindon’s small businesses are ranked fourth in the UK for fuelling economic recovery and this is seen across a number of sectors in the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) area. What is Swindon doing to turn this potential into reality? The Economic Strategy for Swindon 2012-2026 published by Swindon Council and Forward Swindon has as one of its priorities to ‘Deliver a well co-ordinated package of Business Support’. They intend enabling this through ‘providing a basis for action to support new enterprise formation and existing businesses’.
Flexible premises are a key requirement for any new enterprise. Indeed, a third of Swindon businesses increased their flexible working options for staff over the past twelve months. As well as representing a low risk financial commitment, flexible workspaces are also able to grow with the business. Flexible working also has a lower environmental impact, and has been shown to make staff more productive.
Regus has 1800 locations across 100 countries, and last year recorded 17% growth in meeting room bookings in Swindon. This provides further evidence that small to medium size start-up enterprises are clearly driving the growth in Swindon and with the co-ordinated approach of politicians, business groups and office accommodation providers, the entrepreneurs will continue to deliver services, employment and prosperity for the people of the town.