On 6 Feb 2012 Huntingdonshire District Council held a Business Forum where they asked local businesses for their views of business development in Huntingdonshire.
In 2009 the ONS stated that there were 7000 significant businesses in Huntingdonshire of which 25% were knowledge based. The LEP has a task of delivering 40,000 new significant businesses by 2025. (From 60,000 to 100,000). The Alconbury Enterprise Zone will eventually deliver 8,000 jobs which roughly equates to only 50-100 significant businesses. Against this backcloth what is the Huntingdon DC new business target (calendarised) and what has been the achievement since the LEP was formed almost exactly a year ago. As well as significant businesses it would be useful to know the calendarised growth rate of associated SMEs and Micro businesses.
Overseas marketing of Huntingdonshire as an ideal Inward Investment destination is desperately needed. There is some Huntingdon marketing material in a Cambridgeshire CC pack but is really not good enough. There is no foreign language material.
Huntingdon desperately lacks a micro business incubator. Urban and Civic are planning one for the Enterprise Zone but that will take some time. Could the Council utilise Castle Hill house for this purpose – funded by Urban and Civic? It could also double up as a project centre for businesses planning to move to Alconbury.
The small business support provided by the District Council was well intentioned but the council needs to encourage the development of a very active small business support sector in the region. Providing services for free is not the answer. How many micro businesses are employed by Huntingdonshire DC against the Government’s 20% target?
The key “unique selling point” for Huntingdonshire should be its central location situated on a key UK transportation hub. A14 (east and west), A1 (north and south) and East Coast main Line. But rather than being a benefit this is currently a major liability. The success of the Guided Bus has benefited St Ives but has isolated Huntingdon even further. The A14 can only be described as a disaster.
There are plans to re-invigorate Huntingdon Town Centre but at the moment these projects are gridlocked by poor planning decisions and uncoordinated project activity. Last month parking charges were raised by over 20% which will do nothing to encourage customers to visit Huntingdon. The council should provide 3 hours of free parking in all town car parks to stimulate the town’s retail economy. There should be some stimulation for tourism as well.
I hope this was the kind of constructive feedback that the District Council was looking for. I would be happy to meet up and discuss the points in more detail if that would be useful. You have the full support of local businesses with what is a very difficult task.