Sunday, 8 December 2013

Small Business Saturday, Leicester Mercury column

Column for the Leicester Mercury looking ahead to the first Small Business Saturday UK.

Last Sunday I joined the crowds at the popular Clarendon Park Christmas Fair on Queens Road. This event was one of many excellent showcases of Leicester’s vibrant and growing small business economy.

Whether it’s Queens Road, Stoneygate Shops, Narborough Road, the Golden Mile, Aylestone village, Evington Road, Leicester Market or the city centre, small businesses are making a big contribution to the city’s economy.

In Leicester, the city council is supporting small businesses all year-round with a number of initiatives that aim to help them prosper. Small businesses are the engine room of Leicester’s economy and illustrate the entrepreneurship and creativity which typifies our city.

This Saturday, the UK will acknowledge the importance of these businesses by encouraging people to shop locally and support small businesses in their area. I want to encourage people to back Leicester’s small businesses.

Leicester recently retained its place as 11th in the UK’s retail league table - a major achievement given the tough economic times. Small businesses and independent traders can claim their share of this success as an integral part of the city’s retail offer.

The council is making big improvements to the city centre to ensure it continues to be an attractive place to visit. Our city centre director leads a board made up of local retailers and businesses, which is also helping to improve the shopping experience in Leicester.

From promoting what’s on offer in our shops, bars and cafes, to organising special events to attract people into the city, the board is giving small businesses a voice alongside the bigger retailers.

Independent retailers outside the city centre are benefiting from our shopfront improvements grants, and other work we are doing to improve signage, and spruce up shopping areas.

Small businesses on Belgrave Road, Melton Road, Churchgate and Granby Street have taken advantage of these grants with great results, and we are now talking to those on Narborough Road, Braunstone Gate and Humberstone Gate East about the improvements we can help them to make there as part of this £380,000 scheme.

In September this year we launched our Enterprising Leicester grant, opening up a pot of £2m of European funding to small and medium sized businesses looking to grow and create jobs in the city.

So far we’ve given out £70,000 to local businesses, with more awards coming through every week.

The council is also supporting small businesses by making it easier for them to apply for council contracts. It is one of our priorities to use the council’s spending power to help boost the local economy.

Last year the city council spent £3.2m with local small and medium businesses. Our target for this year is to award £10m of contracts locally, and we are well on our way to achieving this.

There’s no doubt that small businesses will play a significant role in the development of our city over the next few years, so I urge you to go out and support them in any way you can, not just this Saturday but every day.

More information on the support available to small businesses in Leicester is available on the council’s website at 
Tweet #SmallBizSatUK

This column first appeared in the Leicester Mercury, Thursday 5 December 2013.