Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Taking Strides to Cross Great Divide; Small

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Taking Strides to Cross Great Divide; Small

Article excerpt


Is there really such a thing as the North-South divide? Over mushy peas and parmos, perhaps, but new evidence suggests that there is less of a Grand Canyon separating businesses. JEZ DAVISON asked some gritty Teesside SMEs what they thought of their smug southern cousins.

TERRY OWENS, founder of Stockton-based start-up organisation Inbiz, has a healthy disregard for official statistics.

He believes the unequal number of VAT-registered start-ups in the south of the country, doesn't mean northerners are stunted entrepreneurs. Currently, there are 4,630 VAT-registered start-ups a year in the North-east - the only reliable way of measuring them - and 1,040 are on Teesside.

But he points out: "These figures don't take into account the local carpet fitter who operates below the VAT threshold. It's sometimes easier to be more competitive in the service sector if you're not VAT-registered."

Nathan Robinson, who six months ago established Barclay Elsdon Lettings in Saltburn and was named a finalist in our recent entrepreneurs' challenge, believes there is definitely a North-South divide - but in Teesside's favour.

"You need more capital to start-up a business down south," he said, "and the labour is often cheaper up here."

Russell Belton, joint managing director of estate agent Snail Homes in Stockton, gave southerners their due. "They are more open to change," he said, but the debate was complicated by the variations in types of businesses across the country.

He said: "Many of the local start-ups are based around traditional trades, such as electricians and plumbers, whereas the south has witnessed growth in financial services and consultancy-based businesses.

"A thriving online travel firm might not be so popular with northerners because they prefer the traditional method of going into a travel agent to book their holiday."

Jonathan Wheatley, founder of Stokesley-based IT firm MC Ware, agreed. He said start-up figures in the recent study had been skewed by the rise in the number of one-man consultants in the south. He believed Tees entrepreneurs were being deterred from going into business by a lack of government support. …

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