At the end of December 2012, nearly half (47%) of all the projects registered with Locate in Kent, were interested in East Kent, with 147 live projects considering investing in Canterbury, Dover or Thanet.
This compared to Thames Gateway, which includes Dartford, Gravesend, Medway and Swale, receiving 149 enquiries (48%). In addition Shepway, Ashford and Maidstone received 143 enquiries (46%) and West Kent received 90 expressions of interest between April 2011 and December 2012.
Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, said: “There’s been a marked increase in interest in East Kent, which has seen it rise from a third of enquiries (32%) in October 2011, and it suggests that business is increasingly viewing the area as being as attractive as the Thames Gateway.”
The availability of funding support for businesses from Expansion East Kent, and the promotional Grow for It in East Kent campaign, are highlighted by Locate in Kent as contributory factors to the increased interest in East Kent as an investment destination.
The opportunities for life science and knowledge-based investors offered by the world-class facilities at Discovery Park, near Sandwich, which has Enterprise Zone status, has also been identified as helping to enhance the area’s commercial attractiveness.
Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, added: “East Kent is now experiencing the level of interest from investors that it has long deserved.
“High-speed rail and new roads have made the area much more accessible and with the available financial package, and the heightened promotional activity through the Grow For It campaign, more businesses are starting to see the area’s business potential.
“We anticipate that East Kent will continue to welcome greater levels of investment, in particular from those businesses involved in life sciences, creative and digital media, low carbon technologies and the tourism industry.”
The Locate in Kent investment figures show that 11 per cent of new investment enquiries in East Kent are in the life sciences sector, with nine per cent for engineering and seven per cent for environmental businesses, all higher than elsewhere in Kent.
Of East Kent’s 147 projects, a third of them (49) had expressed an interest in applying for an interest-free loan from Expansion East Kent, which offers Regional Growth Fund loans to growing businesses in the area.
So far, Expansion East Kent has distributed nearly £6m to 21 East Kent businesses that will create over 500 jobs, with a further £10m in the pipeline creating over 800 jobs. This is all part of Expansion East Kent plans to create 5,000 new jobs, and unlock a further £300m of private sector investment.
Grow for It in East Kent, which was recently introduced to an audience of London entrepreneurs and investors with a showcase event at London Stock Exchange, has been highlighting the business and investment opportunities on offer in East Kent.
Commenting on the number of projects considering Thames Gateway, over the past year, Paul Wookey added:
“We also still have a healthy pipeline in that region. Importantly, we anticipate levels of interest in Thames Gateway to rise with businesses now able to apply for interest free loans through the £20m TIGER support initiative, funded by the Regional Growth Fund.”