Business shouldn't depend on hands-outs from above
ENTHUSIASM was clearly in the air for expansion this past month, judging by the excellent turnout for the launch of Growing The Humber.
The £30 million Regional Growth Fund pot will act as a great incentive, I have no doubt, but while the buzz was certainly encouraging, people's great expectations of the level of help from above, never ceases to amaze me.
In the simplest of terms for those unfamiliar, companies that can create sustainable jobs through capital investment in their businesses are eligible to supply for state aid, roughly £1 for every £4 they can put in. There's no expectation to pay that £1 out of every £4 back out of post-tax profits, it is there for the stimulation of the economy, to tip the balance, and perhaps give projects that extra security, or impetus. To make "no" not the easiest answer when there is a potential need to grow, despite the uncertainty in the economy.
If there's one thing I've not got used to in nearly eight years of reporting on the business front, is the reliance on what can be gleaned from governments, local authorities, etc, when it comes to an inward investment. But during the question-and-answer session for someone to stand up and say 20 per cent isn't quite enough to get to that tipping point, and that "say 50 per cent" would be a lot better when trying to weigh up commercial decisions, really rankled with me.
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I will be at the front of the queue to welcome a new widget manufacturer in to northern Lincolnshire, worry ye not. But if that widget manufacturer takes business from another, with a generous proportion of state aid, I'd be rather alarmed.
There are checks and balances in place, both for sustainability and what is right for the sector, but there are very few businesses that can be said to be not in a competitive market.
Surely 20 per cent is enough help, especially in a setting where existing businesses took the initiative and forged ahead when grants weren't available, risking homes and livelihoods to do what they deemed the right thing?
Over dependence on government to pay for growth in the private sector is alarmingly close to those prepared to sit on benefits and claim there are no jobs out there, without looking or trying, in my mind.
Certainty over policy is one thing, but asking the tax payer to pay for what will be a private, profit-making enterprise is another.
We've got to take responsibility for our own lives more. Certainly take what help is there, but see it as assistance and not the answer, for if and when that rug is removed, we need to be able to not just stand on our own two feet, but run.
BUSINESS Minister Michael Fallon's launch of the Regional Growth Fund was my first visit to The Baths Hall, in Scunthorpe. It is an impressive venue, smart, spacious, beautifully finished and extremely fit for purpose. Within the town centre, it is accessible too, and I look forward to this year's Northern Lincolnshire Business Awards being held there, so more people from the Grimsby-area get to see it too. For us "cod-heads" though, it does underline what a mistake it was not to build Grimsby Auditorium in top town. It probably links to my point above, and grant aid available, but that lack of pre or post show options and the vibrancy regular turn-outs of 1,000 plus audiences into a central area could offer, holds all sorts of potential that we've missed out on at this end of the A180.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but The Riverhead Theatre has a great ring to it. Just ask our Louth readers. Maybe then a night time economy could have been planted, that could have grown into the realisation of some of the ambitious apartment schemes that would be just perfect for the influx of offshore wind technicians we're preparing for....