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Councillors say Maidstone needs an enterprise centre costing up to £1.5m, to deal with the town's low business start-up rate

19 December 2013
by Nick Lillitos

That was the decision by borough council bosses this week to establish an enterprise centre costing between £1.3m and £1.5m.

A report before them revealed Maidstone continues to have one of the lowest business start-up rates in Kent, with more business ‘deaths’ than ‘births.’

Maidstone councillors want to create a trade hub and have a buzzing town centre

Maidstone town centre

Latest available figures show the trend is continuing. In 2009, 610 new ventures took off, with 785 ending. The following year it was 640 compared to 665 and in 2011 670 businesses failed with 650 starting.

The enterprise hub was agreed by council cabinet members on Wednesday.

It will now go before Kent County Council in the form of a ‘shared’ bid, with Maidstone contributing £700,000 from its capital programme with the remainder coming from the regional authority.

If the bid is unsuccessful, Maidstone Council says it would consider funding the project in its entirety, through a combination of grant and commercial loans.

The site for the hub, which aims to create a buzzing centre giving access to shared office facilities, will be the former crown post office in King Street.

The former Post Office could become the HQ of the trade hub

The former Post Office could become the HQ of the trade hub

At present many small businesses working from home are often isolated and miss out on networking opportunities and collaboration, say experts.

A separate report before the council said it faced challenges on how its services were delivered, along with increased pressures to generate income.

It said: “We know that in 2014/15 government funding will reduce by at least 11.5% or £900,000.”

The report added: “The council still needs to identify £550,000 of savings for 2014/15.”

Leader Chris Garland said the council’s financial position remained strong, with balances of some £3.6 million.

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