The Berwick Small Business Conference was attended by 53 people, the majority being small businesses from both sides of the border.
The presence of representatives from Scottish Borders Council’s economic development team and Borders College was particularly welcomed by the chairman Eric Goodyer, who helped organise the event on behalf of Berwick Town Council.
Cllr Goodyer said: “This event proves that Berwick’s business community is vibrant and determined to grow, and it is the role of the town council to help our local businesses prosper.
“Our economy is strongly linked to Scotland and I was pleased to see our Scottish colleagues again support a Berwick economic development initiative. My thanks also go to my fellow town councillors, our staff and the speakers who made the day such as success.”
There was an interesting debate on employment land and business premises.
According to Northumberland County Council’s latest study, Berwick has an over-supply of industrial estates and a 19% office vacancy rate.
In its core strategy, the council is proposing to reduce the number of industrial sites. Yet delegates disagreed. The Ramparts Business Park, built by Berwick Borough Council and One North East is almost full, and may need to expand.
It was felt that the empty sites on Tweedside Industrial Estate must be retained, either to allow a new major employer to move in, or to be redeveloped in modern light industrial units.
The main argument was that there are a large number of small to medium and home-based businesses in Berwick and in time they will need to expand and will need managed workshops to move into.
Spittal Point was highlighted by a number of delegates as a good location for a mixed development of housing linked to artisans workshops, similar to the Amble Harbour Village.
This feedback from the small business community will be used to help shape the Berwick , Spittal & Tweedmouth Neighbourhood Plan.
When asked about his background in economic development Cllr Goodyer said “As a consulting engineer I have worked with entrepreneurs and SMEs all my career, helping them to develop new products, get access to grants, recruit and build their businesses. As a Labour Councillor in Lewisham I chaired the Deptford Regeneration Committee, which worked with the Thatcher Government and business to secure substantial inward investment from the Private and Public sectors, clearing dereliction, improving public services and creating the environment for businesses to develop. I am a strong believer that the public, private & the third sector need to work together, not compete for resources – that message is true regardless of what party is in power.”
Early discussions have begun with potential national sponsors for a second Investors Conference to be held next spring.