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Digital infrastructure improvement top priority for South West business leaders, Business Growth Fund report finds

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Written by: Gavin Thompson | Posted 29 June 2015 17:23

Digital infrastructure improvement top priority for South West business leaders, Business Growth Fund report finds

Better digital infrastructure is the top priority for business leaders in the South West.

Improving and increasing access to digital infrastructure such as superfast broadband ranked first among the business issues that need to be prioritised by the new Government, according to a survey carried out by Business Growth Fund.

Of those surveyed in the South West, 21 per cent prioritised digital infrastructure, while close behind 20 per cent highlighted the need for further investment in physical infrastructure such as roads, rail and runways.

That’s timely given the recent announcements on the future of the Great Western Railway electrification, which the Government has pledged will be a priority despite cost overruns and delays.

The inaugural BGF Growth Climate Index polled BGF’s network of board directors across the region.

More then two thirds (70 per cent) of business leaders in the South West believe that conditions for growth will continue to improve over the next quarter, following what was considered to be a strong start to the year.

This trend is broadly echoed on a national level with 76 per cent of respondents predicting the same.

Businesses are keen to make the most of it – 93 per cent of those polled in the South West said that the objectives of the entrepreneurs they work with are to pursue growth over the next quarter.

The business leaders highlighted sales and marketing, international expansion, and attracting investment as the three areas businesses need to focus on to achieve growth over the next quarter.

But more respondents in the South West consider access to the right skills (27 per cent) rather than access to finance (17 per cent) as a the biggest barrier to growth.

Less than three per cent identified tax policy as a current constraint to growth.

Referendum jitters were consistent throughout the polling.

In the South West, an overwhelming majority (86 per cent) said that UK’s membership of the EU is good for British businesses, and emphasised the importance of the EU export market for companies wanting to scale-up their operations (90 per cent). This echoes pro EU findings from the recent Business West survey.

Paul Oldham, BGF’s regional director for South West said: “Ambitious, entrepreneurial businesses are at the heart of economic success in Britain, and their voices need to be heard.

“Following a prolonged period of political uncertainty, businesses are now looking ahead more confidently, towards a period of relative stability.

“The next few years present further challenges however, in the form of debates on both Europe and Scotland. British businesses need to focus on doing what they do best – innovating, exporting and being as ambitious as they can be.”

One interesting national finding was that entrepreneurs are taking a more long term view.

“One particular finding, that less than five per cent of respondents believe that entrepreneurs are looking to move their investments to exit in the next quarter, demonstrates a cultural shift,” said Paul.

“The growth climate in the UK is allowing entrepreneurs to pursue long-term growth instead of selling out early.”

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