Regional focus: Northern highlights

It’s harder than ever to find enterprise success stories in the UK in the
current climate. So launching this year’s Enterprising Britain 2009 competition
from Scarborough might seem strange, but then again they are the current holders
of the trophy. It’s no secret. Last year Scarborough’s Renaissance Partnership
won the competition for its ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’ project. Its transformed
resort attracted more than £200m of private sector investment and created
hundreds of new jobs.

Scarborough then defeated the home of Nokia phones in Finland and Spain’s
second largest port to be crowned the most enterprising place in Europe,
fighting off thirteen finalists in total.

The point is will Scarborough’s lucky break benefit the town’s hotels and B
&Bs and retailers and other service companies this summer?

Has the North Yorkshire resort really made major gains, as Renaissance
manager Nick Taylor claims? ‘It’s put us on the map and raised our profile as a
contemporary, vibrant, thriving town.’ Nick is now an ‘Enterprising Britain’
judge for the 2009 competition which is open to all places in the UK.

The award has improved the town’s museums and art galleries, according to
Paul Hodgson, Partner at Coulsons. ‘And we have a new Swedish bank. But the
credit crunch hasn’t really hit Scarborough. There hasn’t been a cry for bank
finance. People here are less reliant on banks; they tend to put money away for
a rainy day. We don’t do boom or bust. Some businesses are suffering – the local
Mercedes garage closed recently with the loss of 20 jobs; and builders and
estate agents are going through a bad patch.’

How has the credit crunch and business downturn affected other parts of North
Yorkshire? The short answer is more severely. ‘Nearly everyone is suffering from
bad debts and lack of sales’, says David Ingall, senior partner at JWPCreers in
Selby. ‘Banks are not averse to some lending, subject to reviews. Some
businesses are suffering – construction companies, estate agents, solicitors and
consumer goods businesses dealing in carpets and furniture. We are fortunate,
with a very wide range of clients. No single client accounts for more than 2% of
our fees.’

‘Some of our clients are suffering from slow payment and a few have made
staff redundant,’ says Paul Stephenson, Partner at Holeys,UK200Group member firm
in Harrogate. ‘About a dozen clients have taken advantage of delayed payment of
taxes. Everyone is hoping that Harrogate’s conference facilities, hotels and B
&Bs face a good season.’

Over in York, Richard Bailey, senior Partner at Barron & Barron, makes
the point that the city is definitely feeling the impact of the downturn. ‘We
have some of the worst employment figures across the land; and banks are not too
helpful. We are trying to help clients improve their finances and advise them
across the board.’

Wilf Altman works with the UK200Group

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