Five years ago, in the difficult days after the recession, it seemed hard to think that in 2015 we in West Suffolk would be on the road to economic recovery. It was harder still to imagine that we could in fact be flourishing under a wave of enterprise.
Yet that is what we’ve seen. I’ve often marvelled in these pages at the thousands of new jobs created by local businesses, and been impressed by the hard work and creativity I’ve seen on my travels as local MP. But it’s not just the jobs.
Overall there are 130 new businesses in West Suffolk. Since 2010 1,689 Start-Up Loans have been lent across the East of England. Over £120,000 of that has gone directly to entrepreneurs in West Suffolk. We are doing all we can to make sure local entrepreneurs have the finance they need to get their business off the ground because we believe in people’s ideas.
Businesses are an essential part of building our community, bringing jobs and economic security to West Suffolk. Encouraging business creation is therefore vital to securing a better future for all. No good business idea should go to waste simply because of financial insecurity.
And now for the good news: on his recent visit to Ipswich the Prime Minister said that if the Conservatives win the election, we will go even further, tripling the number of entrepreneurs with Start-Up Loans by 2020, so even more people have the support they need to grow their own businesses and create jobs. I want to hear from anyone in West Suffolk with a business idea they want to turn into reality, to see if these expanded start-up loans might work for you.
But West Suffolk isn’t just in the business of recovering, it is also laying the foundations for future prosperity.
It’s those jobs too, helping give young people a start and reduce unemployment. My fifth Jobs Fair last year was by far my best one yet. With lots of businesses keen to invest in local employees we’ve seen a 50 per cent fall in unemployment. I met a whole range of employers at my fair who are taking great advantage of the economic growth locally to promote their businesses and taken on new staff. And the local job centre staff deserve unstinting praise for the way they help people find work and get that life-fulfilling pay packet.
Every new person employed should be cause for celebration, but every person who remains unemployed makes this task all the more important.
Over these past two years, I’ve been able to combine my local role with being Business Minister. But I am first and foremost a spokesman for West Suffolk. It is spending time in local firms that I really get to know what makes them so successful and hear their personal stories. I find local people tell me the unvarnished version, straight up, warts and all. This is vital for me to do my job, and I want to hear from any local business with ideas on how we can make West Suffolk an even better place to start and grow a business.
I am extremely proud to represent West Suffolk as the enterprising vibe takes off. There’s still much more to do but things are moving in the right direction and I am determined that they will continue to do so.