Star comment: Shoots are appearing for growth

The row in recent days sparked by the Chancellor’s attempted tax hit on the self-employed showed something beyond the political point-scoring.

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It showed that the enterprise and importance of smaller concerns to the economy is appreciated, and there are people who are willing to stand up for them.

Look at the economy of Shropshire and you will see a broken field, by which we mean the days in which there were truly huge individual employers, like Sankey’s and the Sentinel Works, have been superseded by an industrial and business scene which comprises a huge range of smaller and medium-sized businesses. Giving them a bit of a boost is an investment which pays off handsomely in the creation of extra jobs.

Which brings us to the Green Shoots Plus scheme, in which we are delighted to be involved, along with our sister paper the Express and Star, and the University of Wolverhampton.

The money comes from the Regional Growth Fund and is channelled to businesses who have been turned down by banks for the money to help them grow. The scheme is administered by the University of Wolverhampton and supported by our two newspapers.

It is a scheme which has received widespread praise. And we are indeed seeing those green shoots. More than £4 million in grants has been given to 65 small or medium-sized businesses in the West Midlands, helping to create and protect 600 jobs, and seeing £11.2m of private sector investment ploughed into the region. From the Shropshire point of view, £1.1m has gone to 19 companies across the county.

Our own role at the Shropshire Star has been to help direct the cash to qualifying applicants, while also giving the scheme the public profile it deserves.

We also highlight issues within the local economy, the contribution and importance of all these small and medium-sized enterprises, and factors which affect their ability to flourish – in this county this includes such things as mobile phone coverage, transport links, broadband speeds, and all those matters where Shropshire finds itself lagging behind other areas.

The economy has been through a bleak period lasting several years, but the time is right to invest in the future now the ground looks more fertile.

Green Shoots Plus is going to have the most impact when the sun is peeking out on the economy generally.

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