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Broker spotlight: Knowsley Growth Hub

We're shining a light of on each of our Local Growth Hub brokers to provide a glimpse into what they do and what makes them different. In this spotlight, we talk to Kirsty Morris, Business Liaison Officer at Knowsley Growth Hub...

What distinguishes your area from others in the Liverpool City Region?

Knowsley is within easy reach of the two major powerhouse cities of Liverpool and Manchester. We have a commanding and attractive offer in terms of space, infrastructure and ambition. Knowsley is known as the city region’s heartland for “making and moving” and a strong work ethic is in our DNA. Our location is well served by road, rail, air and sea and our 2016 business survey revealed that 61% of businesses chose Knowsley because of its location.

With unrivalled access and connection to the major commercial centres across the north of England, our strategically strong location provides easy access to existing and emerging assets, like Liverpool2, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, the Manchester Ship Canal, the 3MG facility at Widnes (the multi modal gateway with links to the west coast mainline), the Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Knowsley Industrial and Business Parks.

Knowsley makes an important contribution to the economy of Liverpool City Region economy and, indeed, the wider economy of the North-West. We are known for having excellent productivity rates and high-value jobs in key sectors. Knowsley is experiencing unprecedented growth and confidence is high. To meet the needs of business, we have a proactive approach towards business support, attracting inward investment and catalysing economic development. Recently published figures show annual growth in Knowsley’s business base for the last 9 consecutive years.

Knowsley has a wide appeal for potential investors and occupiers. Knowsley Business Park is one of the Liverpool City Region’s greatest spatial assets. Home to more than 800 businesses it is one of the biggest employment areas in Europe. The Business Park offers competitively priced sites primed and ready for development and a range of existing business and industrial accommodation. Investment in the business park has contributed to an increase of more than 6,000 jobs in the borough since 2009, the largest rate of growth in the Liverpool City Region. The importance of the Park will grow too, with further investment planned.

Our Economic Growth Plan 2016 – 2021 includes the provision of significant levels of housing, new infrastructure projects and employment opportunities.

What type of businesses do you work with in particular in your area?

The borough is home to around 3,700 businesses. Our key sectors include manufacturing, logistics, construction, visitor economy and green energy. We have a proud industrial heritage and Knowsley is perfectly positioned for exceptional business, commercial and social growth.

Over the past 25 years, the Growth Team has worked and been intrinsically involved with its business community. The expertise and proficiency of the team means that we can provide support to and work with start-ups, small- and medium-sized enterprises, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, sole traders, partnerships, third sector organisations and limited companies. Our businesses recently advised that satisfaction with advice received was high, with 93% of respondents reporting that the advice they had received helpful.

We work closely with some of the UK’s most successful high performing companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Matalan, Getrag Ford, and QVC. Knowsley Business Park is home to around 800 businesses with approximately 16,000 people working on site and, with new schemes in the pipeline, these figures will grow.

Our Visitor Economy sector is thriving and Knowsley is home to attractions that have regional significance, Knowsley Safari Park and Knowsley Hall to name a few. Some 220 businesses are playing their role in employing people and growing our economy in this area.

Knowsley has a core hub of businesses in renewable energy and environmental technology. The industry employs 4,300 people across 480 businesses, including international companies such as Clarke Energy, Entrade, Future Industrial, Avanti, Suez and Liberty Energy.

How do you go about connecting businesses to support?

Since its launch in 2015, the Knowsley Growth Hub has become the single gateway for all business support services. The joint offer provided by Knowsley Chamber of Commerce and the Business Team at Knowsley Council delivers independent advice that businesses can trust. Evidenced by the high volume of engagements and enquiries we have accomplished, the business community has really bought into the concept of a combined team of experienced and dedicated business advisors who work every step of the way to support businesses and generate growth.

Our regular e-newsletters reach over 4,000 contacts and content is focused around the wide-ranging business support on offer, case studies, and topical business news. Essentially, the e-newsletter is a snapshot and a call-to-action. We use social media extensively and are delighted with the interaction, response and following that we have generated.

We have an extensive calendar of around 75 business events each year. We listen to businesses to ensure that our workshops, seminar and networking opportunities are focused around topical subjects and are highly relevant to business needs. From our event evaluation surveys, we have found that the events have an excellent reputation for connecting people, finding solutions to barriers and challenges, helping companies to develop new strategies and, of course, signposting them to other avenues of support.

With a combined total of 25 years of being in the business support market, we have built a robust and extensive business network of key stakeholders and partners. In turn, this means we can broker businesses to the most relevant source of information and advice, on a timely and proactive basis. All our businesses and businesspeople have access to and can take full advantage of the support from Knowsley and the City Region, as well as regional and national providers.

What distinguishes you by the support you provide to businesses?

Knowsley has taken a pioneering approach to business support. As a combined offer, the Chamber and Council collaboration that was created in 2015 offers an efficient and streamlined approach. All our services are now 'under one roof', ensuring that businesses have access to both private sector led support and also essential council services, such as Employment & Skills, Planning, Environmental and Asset Management.

The specialist Growth Hub Investment Team has an ‘open for business’ and ‘working for business’ approach towards attracting inward investment and economic development. In Knowsley, there are no barriers to accessing support. The Growth Hub has a virtual and physical platform. We offer and conduct business support through a range of options that work best for our businesses – all enquiries are moved proactively and proficiently starting with a simple diagnostic process.

We track the progress and response to engagements and referrals. Response times and actions are agreed at the start of any business support process and we always endeavour to achieve objectives that are set. In our recent survey, 92% of respondents said that they were able to find the appropriate advice and support needed.

Our Knowsley Growth Hub “brand” is now embedded into the Knowsley business support offer and our profile and business support message will be reinforced soon by the launch of a new website. When the best source of referrals we receive is from the businesses themselves, it speaks volumes for the offer available.

How do you expect to see the business make-up of your area develop over time?

Knowsley is a place of outstanding opportunity and our plan is to accelerate business growth. The Economic Growth Plan shows the vision, priorities and targets for growth in the coming years. It is the blueprint for our ambition and articulates how that growth will occur. Written in collaboration between the private and public sectors, the plan outlines the shared focus of aspirations, and includes how Knowsley’s future investment, business support, efforts and priorities will be implemented.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Freight & Logistics sectors, is where our strengths and experience currently lie, but it is our intention to further develop these sectors so that they can play an even more pivotal role within the City Region. We will develop and invest more in the Visitor Economy, Professional Services and Low Carbon sectors, while the Retail and Housing sectors have been identified as local priorities to focus on in the coming years.

Some examples of our growth plans include the development of 1.2 million sq ft of new floor space for employment, a new cultural offer for the Visitor Economy Sector with the development of the Shakespeare North theatre, a master planning process that has already commenced to create sustainable and reinvigorated town centres led by private sector investment and management and 164 hectares of extra land that will be available for employment by 2028.

From children in primary schools through to university graduates, the focus will be to raise aspirations and skills in line with the key opportunities in the area and emerging through the Northern Powerhouse. Our location and proximity to 12 universities, together with our existing and embedded relationships will help businesses to tap into the talent pool of graduates.

This focused approach aims to support, attract and grow businesses aligned to these key sectors, and will ensure that Knowsley continues to grow its own economic base and make a significant contribution to the GDP of the City Region.