You should look to coastal regions across the UK as they become popular business hubs, says Graham Longley, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development.
When we think of the seaside we imagine building sandcastles and eating fish and chips on the beach, but in recent years we are seeing a shift in priorities. More and more seaside locations are looking seriously at becoming business hubs; attracting investment and increasing opportunities. With rising property prices and rents, maximising revenues and minimising costs can sometimes seem like an impossible dream for many businesses, however locating to the coast is increasingly a viable solution. Not only are there a raft of business benefits, a recent study found that living next to the sea has an impact on physical and mental health as well as general well-being, providing an all-round more balanced lifestyle.
Since the rise in the number of airlines offering tourists cheap getaways, seaside towns have had to reinvent and invest in themselves in order to become strongholds of business, and in recent years have developed their own attributes to support their growth and contribution to the economy. As a result, many seaside towns and cities across the UK now boast improved travel connections making them attractive locations to set up a business or relocate to. In Southend-on-Sea, for example, we have excellent rail, road and air transport links, including two direct train lines to the City of London as well as an expanding regional airport, connecting the city to the rest of Europe and perfect for the commuter or a business looking to international connections.
However, let’s not forget about the hordes of tourists from across the UK and abroad visiting these diverse regions for the quintessential, British seaside experience. As the fifth largest industry, tourism accounts for 9% of jobs across the UK as well as supporting 249,000 businesses. Highlighting its driving force in growth and jobs, tourism has meant that businesses based in seaside areas are able to galvanise on a variety of opportunities as well as harness entrepreneurial strength. As a result, coastal-based companies have successfully increased demand for products and services outside of the traditional tourist season. The expanding tourist sector in Southend for example, is an important bedrock to the local economy, providing over 7,800 jobs to local people in 2012 alone and helping to provide a place that people want to visit and stay in.
Not Just A Seaside Specialist
By developing opportunities which create jobs and inspire learning, seaside regions host a diverse array of businesses and entrepreneurs as well as bringing industrial and lifestyle appeal. In Southend-on-Sea we have a thriving MedTech Sector with global names like Olympus KeyMed and flourishing others such as Surgical Holdings, a manufacturer and repairer of surgical instruments. Consequently we are a founding partner in the Anglia Ruskin MedTech Campus which we hope will create opportunities for innovators, whilst also encouraging the development of new healthcare solutions. Helping to improve quality of life for the population not just in Southend but across the UK.
With their distinct heritage and mixed economy, coastal areas have become centres for creative, digital and off-shore industries; for example Aberdeen’s ‘The Silver City with Golden Sands’ has become the Energy Capital of Europe due to its flourishing Oil and Gas industry, making it one of the most influential energy cities in the world. With increased investment in these areas, towns and cities around the coast have the ability to attract new investment as well as deliver on their promises and this is a shift we’re predicting to continue.
Increase Your Investment
The government has also shown an interest in the steady development of coastal towns as key business locations and recently created the Coastal Communities Fund in order to achieve this. Here in Southend we were awarded £1.25 million to help enhance and diversify our tourism and cultural offerings. This initiative, which was created to regenerate investment in seaside towns and villages to help rebalance their local economies, reduce unemployment and create new work opportunities for young people, serves to highlight one of the many ways in which seaside towns will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, becoming particularly attractive to SMEs.
The Future Is Business
Over the next ten years, coastal regions are definitely expected to grow. By encouraging and supporting entrepreneurial spirit, businesses in these communities will remain vibrant and continue to grow. Increasing skills and learning will play an important part, not only to retain more graduates but to support and stimulate economic growth in new and existing businesses. Tourism and the traditional seaside town image will continue to play a role in this, as we have lots to offer potential investors, with our green spaces, miles of beaches and a wonderful environment to set up a base and work in. However continued investment in coastal regions will enable them to develop new economies as well as celebrate and nurture existing ones, across diverse sectors including aviation, engineering, cultural and creative industries, medical technologies and retail. We’re looking forward to helping businesses see the benefit coastal locations have to offer in terms of business growth and connectivity.