Business briefing

SKDC Leader Cllr Kelham Cooke this morning looked forward to supporting local firms meet the challenges ahead in a speech to the InvestSK Business Breakfast, held remotely online.

Full speech, check against delivery.

Cllr Cooke: While these events would normally be held in person in various venues around the district, I'm really pleased to see so many familiar faces here today - and lots of new ones too.

It certainly feels like a long time since we hosted our first online event in June, and it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that much has happened since then.

We've emerged from the national lockdown, businesses have started to reopen, and our economy is moving towards recovery. However, it is important that we continue to monitor the situation and adapt as necessary as we move towards a new normal.

One of the things that has most inspired me over the past few months, is just how much work you have been doing to adapt to such unprecedented times. InvestSK and SKDC are committed to supporting our local business community, but each business has its very own unique challenges and

it is a real testament to your resilience and tenacity that you have responded so positively and with such determination to those challenges.

We have also had to respond to the challenges of the past few months and look to the future to ensure that we continue to provide support where it is needed most, and in a way that best supports you.

InvestSK I know has been a valuable support for a high number of businesses throughout the last year and especially in the last five months. We now need to look forward to the challenges ahead and ensure that the Invest SK team is focused on the right things to ensure we have a key role to play in economic recovery and the safeguarding of jobs. The team will focus on these areas and ensure we can give support to you all. Please don't hesitate to contact us.

The council's Strategic Director, Paul Thomas, will take up the role of Managing Director of InvestSK - which is a council-owned company. He will continue to drive the strategic direction of the company, and his experience over many years will be welcomed by all.

InvestSK is a council-owned company and works best when it works hand-in-glove with SKDC, providing that vital link between you and the council. Steve Bowyer joined us at the beginning of the InvestSK journey and helped to lay the foundations. I am grateful for the work he did, and I am sure you would all want to join me in wishing him all the very best in his future endeavours.

As many of you will know, at the start of the national lockdown in March the Government launched two grant programmes to support small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. Local authorities were asked to administer these funds and here in South Kesteven, InvestSK, managed both on the council's behalf.

Those funds have now closed, and I'm pleased to say that almost £28 million has been awarded to 2,289 local companies. Administering these programmes from a standing start and getting the funding out to businesses quickly was certainly a challenge for us, but one we rose to and I'm proud to say we delivered on. And I know from speaking to businesses that this support has been a welcome lifeline for so many.

In addition, we then supported almost 300 businesses who weren't eligible for the initial two government programmes by awarding a further £1.54 million through the Local Authority Discretionary Grant scheme.

And while our help during recent months has centred on administering the business grant programmes for businesses, InvestSK has continued to field enquiries from potential investors who see the value and opportunity of basing their operations in South Kesteven.

At any time, but particularly now, receiving inward investment enquiries is an incredibly positive acknowledgement of the strength and appeal of our local economy and InvestSK is working hard to nurture those leads to create more jobs in the district for local residents.

Although we know South Kesteven has a strong offer for investors looking to relocate, we must make sure that the district continues to grow in the way that meets business needs. That's why it's really important that we hear your views as we review our Local Plan.

South Kesteven District Council's Local Plan for 2011-2036 was adopted in January this year, with a commitment to an early review allowing the council to consider changes in local housing needs and provide an update on the provision of employment land and gypsy and traveller accommodation. The review will take the plan forward to 2041.

We'd really welcome your views on the Plan and encourage you to share your feedback with us by when the consultation opens later this month. Our aim is to launch the six-week consultation on or around 14 September. If you are already on our consultation database, you should receive a notification. If you are not on our database but would like to take part in the consultation, please speak to the InvestSK team and they will be happy to help you get involved. We will be publishing details of the consultation on our website and making an announcement through our local media.

Continuing to look ahead towards recovery and growth, I'm delighted that in July we were able to submit, as planned, our bid to the Government for £8.1million of funding to regenerate Grantham's town centre.

If successful, under the Future High Streets programme and working closely with businesses, landowners and strategic partners throughout the town, we really can transform Grantham to make it an even better place for people to live, work and visit.

The projects included in the proposal will transform the access gateway into the town, convert empty retail units into new homes and workplaces, and invest in other vital infrastructure and public realm enhancements.

It's such an exciting once-in-a-generation opportunity for Grantham and we're looking forward to hearing the outcome of our bid in due course.

So while we're all firmly focused on continuing to navigate our way through this crisis to a post-covid way of working, I hope you'll see that we've also got one eye fixed firmly on the future.