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Last month, a group of 12 local businesses attended a discussion session headed by Professor Tim Dafforn, Chief Entrepreneurial Adviser at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The two main topics for discussion were how local businesses access business support and the implementation of post-Brexit exit strategies in a small business. Spalding was selected as one of only ten places to host the events in the country, giving Lincolnshire the opportunity to speak directly to the government about business issues being faced locally and the support initiatives being delivered in the area.
A topic of much discussion for the event was inevitably surrounding the business implications and risks that are looming with the exit from the EU, which revealed that only a quarter of the businesses involved had put any concrete plans in place to mitigate the risk that Brexit poses. However, many businesses did feel confident that Brexit would pose minimal threat to their own business or that their business was strong enough to withstand any changes that may happen post-Brexit, and could implement necessary changes when it becomes clear what these will need to be. Discussions also highlighted the opportunity to focus on the ultimate quality of UK manufactured products and opportunities to make trade deals with Commonwealth countries as well as India and China.
Another topic on the agenda for the meeting was around the support being offered to small businesses in the county. Many felt that the opportunity for exporting currently could be risky for a small business owing to the volatility of the current exchange rates. It was suggested that if there could be more guarantee of stability, there might be more appetite for small businesses to look to overseas markets for potential business deals.
There was also discussion around the accessibility of funding and the grant criteria structure in place, where the commitment to creating new jobs becomes difficult to fulfil for a business with the objective of increasing productivity – in some instances incorporating automation could actually reduce the workforce if the machinery is implemented in place of manual labour.
Joe Verde, Chief Executive of PSP-IT who hosted the event at their new conference and training facility in Spalding, said “It was great to see so many companies attend the event and listen to the concerns on business support and Brexit. There was a lot of positivity about Brexit and the opportunities that may arise.”
Ursula Lidbetter, Chief Executive of the Co-operative Group and Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP said “Lincolnshire's 40,000 small and medium-sized businesses have told us that trade, customs, taxation, regulation, the labour market and EU funding are the areas for concern as we exit the EU. That’s why we were pleased that members of our business community were able to voice these concerns with Professor Dafforn in Spalding last week.”
Overall the discussion was a lively overview of the state of business across Lincolnshire, which shed some light on critical and interesting points around the support businesses need and to deal with the challenges of Brexit.