By Tony Fisher, Senior Partner, Fisher Jones Greenwood
Colchester has over 600 creative and digital industry businesses employing over 3,500 people. In fact it is one of the fastest growing digital and creative clusters in the UK. Over 16% – or 1 in 6 – businesses in Colchester are in the digital and creative sector.
These figures prove Colchester is the place to start a new creative business and we must ensure that these start-ups have the confidence and resources to expand and grow – creating new jobs. This will be through the skills that the Universities and Colleges are creating and places to grow such as The Creative Hub in the town centre and The Knowledge Gateway at the University, which are two great examples of how we are making this work and put us ahead of other towns and cities in our region.
The best way to illustrate Colchester’s success it to talk about a couple of the businesses which have taken advantage of the resources available to grow exponentially over the last decade or so.
One of these is Cloudfm. A facilities management business which has grown from nothing over the last five years to become one of the industry’s leading players. That growth has been based on constant innovation. An industry disrupter which has used a cloud based software solution to re-engineer the provision of management and maintenance services.
It has attracted national chains of restaurants, retail outlets, travel companies and media businesses who want better control and more transparency in relation to their facilities management services. In November 2017 its MD Jeff Dewing was named one of Grant Thornton’s 100 Faces of a Vibrant Economy for 2017.
Another example of the entrepreneurial spirit in Colchester is Sportsafe UK. Established by a fellow Ambassador Jon Neill it has now grown to become the leading supplier of sports and fitness equipment for over 16,000 schools and sports centres across the UK and internationally.
Jeff and Jon are representatives of a legion of successful driven entrepreneurs who have chosen Colchester as a base from which to nurture nascent businesses. And why? Because Colchester is a hotbed of innovation with the educational and human resources which provide the fuel for growth.
My own firm has grown over the last three decades from two partners and no staff to nearly 200 solicitors and support staff. In partnership with the University of Essex we have developed innovative workflow solutions which won us a national Law Society Excellence Award in Technology and we are now a top 200 firm.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Colchester has helped to establish a local economy which has above average employment compared with the county of Essex, the South East Local Enterprise area, and the whole of the UK. Continued growth and investment will ensure that this spirit will be nurtured over the coming years.