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Commerce, Culture and Community – Key insights from the North West Fastest 50

Key insights from leaders at the Ward Hadaway North West Fastest 50.

The 2024 Ward Hadaway North West Fastest 50 recently welcomed over 250 entrepreneurs, business owners and their teams to a lively ceremony at the Royal Exchange Theatre in central Manchester. For the first time, ahead of the awards, a panel of experienced business leaders shared their insights with the audience and highlighted the North West of England’s unique strengths as a hub for business growth.

Why is the North West a prime location for growing businesses? Susanna Lawson, Co-founder of Circle of Trust and OneFile, Emma Holt, President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Chiara Pettinicchio, a highly specialist mergers and acquisitions (M&A) adviser in the North West, shared their thoughts during a discussion chaired by Ward Hadaway’s Paul Johnson. Here are the key takeaways from the session.

1. Access to Diverse Funding Options

It goes without saying that access to funding is a vital element for business growth. A decade ago, this was limited to high street banks but now there is more funding agility. From alternative debt providers to private equity firms, businesses in the region can access multiple avenues to secure financial support.

This diversity in funding sources means that companies of all sizes and stages can find suitable financial assistance to support their growth plans. Where investment houses traditionally funded thriving organisations with clear growth potential, now they will consider distressed businesses, taking them from loss to profit and supporting the right infrastructure for growth. There are now far more bespoke funding solutions to suit individual businesses than ever before which is helping shape an uptick in M&A activity.

The presence of funders who are headquartered in the North West and have a deep understanding of the local business landscape further enhances this advantage.

2. Strong Connectivity and Infrastructure

One of the advantages of doing business in the North West is its strong connectivity. The region has extensive rail, road, freight and aviation networks which are crucial for businesses that rely on logistics and mobility. The development of a strong digital infrastructure also supports the growth of tech businesses and remote working models. This robust connectivity supports productivity and allows companies to expand their reach nationally and globally.

Together, these elements create an environment where North West businesses can thrive, innovate and grow.

3. A Supportive Trade Environment

The North West has a burgeoning  trade environment, bolstered by local initiatives and international trade links. Bodies like the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce play a pivotal role in providing businesses with the support they need to navigate complex trade regulations and expand their markets. This has been particularly important with the tightened trading regulations with the EU following Brexit.

This supportive trade framework makes the region an attractive destination for exporters and importers alike. The fact that 12% of companies on the Fastest 50 list are in the logistics and transport industry is a testament to the effectiveness of the trading environment in the region.

4. Focus on Skills Development

The availability of a skilled workforce is a significant factor in the region’s economic success. The panel emphasised the importance of addressing skill shortages and highlighted the efforts of the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP).

The LSIP aims to identify critical skill gaps and collaborate with educational institutions to develop relevant training programs to fill them. The Chamber has recently supported a collaborative, large-scale survey of 3,603 respondents, to help identify exactly where the shortages are, how to address them and what the skills of the future could be.

This initiative ensures that the workforce is equipped with the skills required by modern industries, making it easier for businesses to find qualified employees. The focus on continuous learning and development is crucial for North West businesses to maintain a competitive edge.

5. Community, Commerce and Culture

The North West boasts a vibrant business community that fosters collaboration, innovation and mutual support. Events like the Fastest 50 Awards and supportive business bodies like The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce help create a collaborative environment that encourages knowledge sharing and networking, which can lead to new opportunities and partnerships. Additionally, the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population create a dynamic atmosphere that attracts talent, inspires creativity and drives growth.

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