East of England: Region leads the way for business growth, says Experian study

THE number of businesses operating in the East of England has grown more strongly than in any other part of the country, according to new research.

Business information services group Experian, which was commissioned to carry out the study by the BBC, says that 70% of local authority districts across England have seen a net increase in their business base since 2010, but with the East leading the way.

The region accounts for 15 of the top 50 districts in terms of business growth, taking into account start-ups and insolvencies, including Harlow and Luton which are ranked first and third in the country respectively.

Also among the districts in the top 50 are South Norfolk (in 10th place), East Cambridgeshire (14th), Mid Suffolk (32nd), Babergh (33rd) and Colchester (46th).

In terms of businesses with particular potential for future growth, the East performs less strongly, being ranked sixth out of the nine English regions, although districts with a relatively high proportion of “business champion” companies do include Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury and Norwich.

The study also assessed the strength of districts in terms of the proportion of businesses involved in exporting and the proportion operating in sectors likely to show the strongest future growth.

Overall, the East of England has the third-highest proportion of exporting businesses after London and the South East, although it South Cambridgeshire it includes the top-ranked district in the country.

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Nine other districts from the East make the top 50 for exporting businesses, including Harlow (10th), Cambridge (27th), East Cambridgeshire (38th), St Edmundsbury (42nd), Forest Heath (43rd) and Great Yarmouth (45th).

East ranks joint fourth with the East Midlands for future export growth, with Harlow, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath identfied as having particular potential.

And the East is ranked third in terms of sector-led growth, with 31% of its businesses being involved in the fnancial and business services sectors expected to the show strongest growth in future, behind only London (40%) and the South East (34%).

However, only six districts from the East make the top 50 for sector-led growth, mainly in Hertfordshire and south Essex, including Brentwood in 20th place, although South Cambridgeshire also makes the table in 33rd position.

The “business champions” ranking for firms with the highest growth potential is headed by regions which have performed less strongly in the last two years, with the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and the East Midlands taking the top three places.

Max Firth, managing director of business information services at Experian, said: “There are really really good pockets of entrepreneurial, potentially successful businesses across the UK, not just in the South East.”