Hartlepool firms need to diversify

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A BUSINESS expert has called for companies in Hartlepool to help re-balance the Tees Valley economy.

Stephen Catchpole, the managing director of the local enterprise partnership Tees Valley Unlimited, believes a bright future for the area will lie in the hands of firms which have the capability to diversify.

That applies to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as the area’s larger scale businesses, he added.

In his latest monthly outlook on the state of the area’s fortunes, Mr Catchpole said: “Re-balancing Tees Valley’s business landscape, which includes steering it away from being reliant on one or two key sectors, involves taking several different approaches.

“Existing Tees Valley companies must not only be encouraged to, but also given the confidence and ability to, diversify. This may lead to them moving into emerging new markets, investing in new technologies and techniques or considering transferring their knowledge and skills into new commercial arenas. An important part of the mix will be the strengthening and growth of Tees Valley’s base of small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Employment opportunities can be generated within the SME sector and not only by existing companies expanding and recruiting, but by encouraging people to consider starting their own business and become their own boss.”

Federation of Small Businesses statistics show small and medium sized firms make up 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, 59.3 per cent of private sector employment and 48.1 per cent of private sector turnover. They employ 14.4 million people and have a combined turnover of £1,600 billion.

In Tees Valley, nine percent of workers are employed by companies with a workforce of nine or less and 13 percent are at firms that have between ten and 49 staff on their books.

Mr Catchpole added: “Some business models are not scalable and some business owners, while wanting to be successful, want to remain the same size, while others have ambitions to move to a bigger league.

“We want to forge an environment where more people feel able and confident to set up a business and where, if they want to, they can grow that business.

“For those with a good business idea, working for themselves can be very rewarding, but there is no doubt that it takes a lot of hard work and determination to become self-employed. However, there is help and support available to those with entrepreneurial ambitions.

“For Tees Valley to prosper, it is not a question of one size fits all. Both industrial giants and SMEs have a part to play in the area’s future prosperity.”