Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Winners and losers in Borders business stakes

The number of new companies being formed in the Scottish Borders fell by more than five per cent last year while the United Kingdom experienced 7.6% growth in business start-ups during 2013.

And the situation was no different in the first quarter of 2014 with a one per cent reduction in business registrations locally between January and March against a national increase of 11.8%.

The figures from Bristol-based Dupont Associates, a company which helps people set up limited companies, illustrate the need for a significant increase in entrepreneurship and risk taking if our region is to improve its prosperity and create additional private sector jobs.

During 2013 a total of 368 new companies were formed in the Borders. Duport's figures for the second half of the year when we were told Britain's economy was expanding at a breathless rate, show 164 businesses were started in our region - 18.4 per cent fewer than in the same six months of 2012. Meanwhile there was an 8.9% increase in new companies across the UK between July and December 2013.

There was some brighter news on company failures with 200 Borders businesses dissolved in 2013, 7.8 per cent fewer than the previous year. So at least there was a net gain of 168 names on the register at Companies House. But it is impossible to estimate how many jobs have been created by these welcome new additions to the Borders business scene.

A further 53 companies went to the wall in the first quarter of 2014, 3.6% fewer than in the equivalent three months of 2013. It is encouraging to see an improvement in the overall survival rate of local businesses.

The report from Duport shows the average age of Borders company directors is 47.3 years (as of 2013). But the percentage of directors below the age of 25 (6.2%) is much higher than the national average of just 3.9%. At the other end of the age scale a mere 1.9% of directors are aged over 65 while the national statistic stands at 4.2%.

Some sections of Borders society may be surprised to learn that one third of the region's company directors are female (33.6% to be exact) and that is well above the UK figure of 26%.

An earlier article on this site highlighted the apparent lack of investment in the Borders by Scottish Enterprise. In particular not a penny in Regional Selective Assistance came our way in 2013/14.

If the Borders economy is to be developed through the expansion of locally formed new businesses then the Duport figures surely prove more investment and support is urgently required.

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