Warwickshire's inspiring businesses can look to a brighter 2021...
After a year of unprecedented challenge, there are now plenty of encouraging signs of economic recovery. Warwickshire County Council's Strategy & Commissioning Manager, Economy & Skills, Alison Robinson, highlights some positive trends...and expresses her admiration for the inspiring resilience of the county's business community.
Largely without exception, the latest news on the UK’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic is positive.
Growth in 2021 is forecast to be the fastest since the Second World War - at 7.25%. This must be measured against the backdrop of 2020 which saw the deepest slump in Gross Domestic Product for over three 300 years, and Britain’s economy remains smaller than at the end of 2019, but analyst views now consistently predict the economy will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
This good news has rippled through into business sentiment. According to the latest study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), confidence levels amongst small businesses in the West Midlands are among the highest in the UK.
With trading restrictions having eased, the SBI confidence measure for the region has risen to +39 in Q1 of 2021, up from -36 the previous quarter. The region’s confidence figure stands significantly higher than the UK average of +27.3 – and second only to neighbouring East Midlands.
Even more promisingly, more than half of small businesses in the region (54%) expect revenues to increase over the next quarter. The survey also showed that more than half the region’s businesses (57%) aspire to grow over the next 12 months.
Lee Osborne, FSB Development Manager Warwickshire and Coventry, believes "surging levels" of optimism are tangible even in those sectors which have been hardest hit.
“It's fantastic to see our shops, hospitality businesses, hairdressers and gyms across Warwickshire able to get back to what they do best over the past few weeks as restrictions ease," said Lee. "With surging levels of optimism and upticks in crucial business areas, our latest Confidence Survey shows that small firms in the region are feeling positive about the future.
"The certainty provided by the Government road map and roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine are likely to be behind the boost in optimism and it is heartening to see small firms across the region report that business confidence is now in positive territory for the first time since before the pandemic. The outlook for future revenue looks more prosperous in the West Midlands than elsewhere and the overall picture of recovery is looking bright."
They are indeed heartening words from Lee, and perhaps what has inspired me most is the feedback we are receiving from Warwickshire businesses which suggests a new-found resilience from those businesses. They have fought their way through successive lockdowns, pivoted to adapt to new regulations and revamped their technology skills to embrace the digital world. Firms have completely rebuilt their business model to take advantage of the new opportunities presented in a post pandemic world - and it is that sort of adaptability and resilience which means Warwickshire is as well-placed as can possibly be to rebuild post-COVID.
The challenges are far from over, of course and, even with the more positive outlook, the role of WCC's Economy & Skills team continues to grow. We will continue to step up our work to attract economic investment into the county, alongside commissioning and delivering support programmes to maximise business growth and skills levels in Warwickshire. The pandemic shone a light on the clear connection between a strong economy and good public health, making economic development absolutely crucial to County Council’s vision of making Warwickshire the best it can be.
For more information on our Business Support available, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/business-support
For more information on our Skills Support available, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/businessskills