Marches Growth Hub is a single point of access for businesses in the Hereford, Shrewsbury and Telford regions, offering financial support and advice to help local businesses achieve great things. We met its Chairman, Paul Hinkins, to talk about how helping SMEs in the early stages of start-up is helping economic growth, forming a sense of community, and creating a better quality of life for people in the Marches.
Marches Growth Hub was set up in 2014 and launched to the public the following year, and Paul has been dedicated to making it a success since its inception. He wears many professional hats, working works alongside local authorities, sitting as the Chair of Telford Business Board, the Chair of Governors for a local college, and he is also the MD of a private security company, as well as being devoted to his role with Marches Growth Hub. Paul says:
“I can’t help but get involved with trying to assist with economic development. When I first moved to this area I had a romantic vision of living in the countryside and working perhaps three days per week – but that immediately went out of the window!
“So, why do I do all of those things? I’m a great believer in not having silence. And supporting SMEs needs to be out there and talked about, as it’s key to economic development. SMEs make up well more than 80% of businesses in the area, but whilst we are focused on supporting them directly, you also need to have housing, schools, FE and HE education, leisure facilities, tourism, shopping etc. in order to make them work. You need to attract people into an area, because it’s not just all about the work and the job, it’s the lifestyle and the quality of life too, so it’s important look at the bigger picture. Essentially, what we want is for the Marches to be a success.”
Marches Growth Hub offers a variety of support and services to businesses all from one place; an element that is extremely important to Paul. He says:
“This always needed to be a ‘one stop shop’. I know from experience how complicated and stressful it can be when you’re an existing or start-up, and everything often seems over-complicated and you haven’t got a clue where to go. Therefore, it’s our job to simplify it, to make it easy, so whether someone’s looking for advice or support or funding, we are the ones who take the strain – we ask all of the questions instead of them thinking they need to come to us with all the answers first, and once we’ve figured them out together, we can point them in the right direction.”
To offer all of this advice in one place, the Marches Growth Hub operates largely through a virtual hub, where people are able to access its services online, wherever they are. However, Paul recognises the importance of face-to-face meetings too:
“The internet allows us to be easily accessible, which is great, but we mustn’t lose sight of people wanting and needing that physical contact too; offices that you can go to and sit down with someone if you need help filling out an application, that sort of thing. As a result, we have three physical hubs where people can drop in or make an appointment any time they need to.”
To date, almost 6,000 businesses have sought the support of Marches Growth Hub, and they themselves are ‘scaling up’ – a term that Paul explains is central to developing businesses at the moment:
“It’s the current ‘in’ term, the buzzword from the government, to ‘scale-up’, and its meaning is simple – if you’re a business with strong growth ambitions, then you want to scale-up. That’s where we come in – Marches Growth Hub is here to support you.
“To businesses out there who are wondering how they’re getting something for nothing, I’d explain that we are getting something back by investing in them – if we support an SME in its growth, we may create, say, another 10 jobs, which then helps the local economy. There is input and output, and we’re here to give that input to businesses. We have many experts working with us who do it just for the pure passion of making the Marches a success, and we’re here to help you, and to make this area of outstanding natural beauty a fantastic place to work and live.”
Visit www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk or call 0345 6000727 to find out more about Marches Growth Hub.