Go it alone attitude is encouraging

I think about 80% of hands shot up when Kent Business School (KBS) students were asked if they would like to run their own business.

That’s a massive change from past times when most young people expected to work for someone else.

Special guest Lord Young, David Cameron’s enterprise advisor, welcomed the show of hands.

Enterprise Day 2014 at Kent Business School, University of Kent. From left, director of external services at KBS David Williamson, the Prime Minister's adviser on enterprise Lord Young, KBS director Martin Meyer and University of Kent pro-vice chancellor Professor John Baldock
Enterprise Day 2014 at Kent Business School, University of Kent. From left, director of external services at KBS David Williamson, the Prime Minister's adviser on enterprise Lord Young, KBS director Martin Meyer and University of Kent pro-vice chancellor Professor John Baldock

He has backed start-up loans, vouchers and other ways of encouraging enterprise, including a Fiver scheme that will give 20,000 primary pupils £5 each to turn a profit.

But he was scathing about the education system, saying it did not produce people with the enterprise to work for themselves.

He commended KBS for encouraging all students across the University of Kent campus, not just those in KBS, to look at self-employment.

“Enterprise is not about being an entrepreneur,” he said, “it’s about can-do, seeing the positive and the glass half-full.”

Lord Young, 81, proves that you are never too old for enterprise. The trait is a valuable asset for today’s young people facing a delayed state pension.

He watched inspiring presentations by Kent Excellence in Business Awards (KEiBA) Young Entrepreneurs of the Year winners Owen Hunnam – Sevenoaks-based founder of Vine Publishing and creative agency Yellow Ball – and Dartford’s Charmaine Kemp of Wheelie Good Mobility.

“I’m very impressed,” Lord Young told me in the minibus taking us back to the station.

“I’ve been to many business schools but this was the most entrepreneurial I’ve ever been to. There were some wonderful people who started their own businesses, tremendous enthusiasm, and I’ve come away very happy.”

KBS director Martin Meyer was purring. The go-it-alone message at a time of high youth unemployment is clearly getting across.

Our county town lacks punch as a powerhouse

It is a great regret for many residents that Maidstone does not fully punch its weight as the county town.

With its brilliant location in the heart of Kent and a marvellous river frontage, it should be the county’s economic and strategic powerhouse.

It has had numerous opportunities to be so – but spurned many.

Buidling at Hayle Place in Tovil, Maidstone
Buidling at Hayle Place in Tovil, Maidstone

A proposed Mid-Kent Parkway station in the 1990s would have done wonders for the economies of Medway and Maidstone.

Dedicated high-speed trains – from the start – would have transformed the lives of commuters, attracting employers and jobs.

Some advantages of the River Medway as an attractive leisure resource have been lost to ugly retail sheds.

Many argue that a proposed football stadium shared by the Stones and the Gills would have advanced the county’s footballing reputation.

Housing is a major challenge, with an estimated – but disputed – 19,600 homes claimed to be necessary. But their possible locations, many on green fields or in-filing brown field, are piecemeal.

Golding Homes argues that an iconic “garden suburb”, well planned from the start, is better than third-rate design in the wrong places.

Something with leading architecture, good infrastructure and unlocking a Leeds-Langley bypass – proved desperately needed by the recent road closure – would be ideal but the council has not given a response to a bold Poundbury-style idea, putting a new experimental urban extension on the outskirts of Maidstone.

The proposed Notcutts out-of-town centre has sparked confrontation between those who want retail development only in the town centre, fearful of a loss of business, and those who believe some out-of-town development can be accommodated.

Waitrose and Debenhams probably wouldn’t go to the town centre, recognising that traffic gridlock would put off customers.

The reality is that a good out-of-town centre – creating 1,500 jobs – would attract more customers from further afield. The challenge is to entice them to the town centre’s shops and restaurants as a complementary offer.

That means good transport, clever marketing, and bringing the market back to the heart of town. And not everyone will go out-of-town.

And what about a commercial development at Junction 8 of the M20?

The town needs jobs, two firms want to move there, it is the right location for them, and the developers have promised good landscaping.

If Maidstone is to punch its weight, local representatives need to be robust and take strategic big-town thinking about Maidstone’s place in the world. They must make tough long-term decisions in the face of opposition.

No one likes change. But the county town must grasp a highly competitive future with ambitious, world-class development – or be content with being so much less than it ought to be.

Flying flag for construction

Kent needs a flag-waver for the construction industry.

At a recent Kent Constructing Excellence event, there was talk of how to raise the profile of the industry to attract more young people ahead of a skills shortage as experienced employees retire.

There are signs that the economic upturn is starting to fill construction firms’ order books.

It is a vital sector in a county with so much growth potential and numerous development.
This surely has to be a great time for the young to consider a career in the industry.

But the industry has got to shout it from their rooftops.

Fitting service for a devoted friend of Kent

Among the congregation at packed thanksgiving service for the life of Lord Kingsdown in Canterbury Cathedral earlier this month, it was good to see Mark Carney, the new Canada-born Bank of England Governor, and Sir Paul Tucker, the former deputy whom he pipped to the top job in the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

Former Prime Minister John Major
Former Prime Minister John Major

Other familiar faces included John Major, Lord Carrington and former Chancellor Lord Lamont.

Sir Paul spoke of Robin Leigh-Pemberton’s supportive nature as a colleague and advocate of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The Dean, the Very Rev Dr Robert Willis, recalled the ex-Governor’s love of the three Bs – Bank, Bees (he kept them in the City) and the Book of Common Prayer.

The service was a moving, fitting tribute to the former Lord-Lieutenant of Kent who will forever be remembered as one of the county’s most distinguished and devoted citizens.

Neigh-sayers spoke from the horse's mouth

No wonder horses won in a lively debate of the Rural Business Development and Advancement Group at Hadlow College on the motion: “Land for Horses is Wasted.”

Proponents argued against “wealthy” horse and pony owners in rural Kent utilising fields and paddocks for their “pets” instead of turning it over to arable to feed the world’s growing population.

But neigh-sayers claimed the UK equine sector was worth £4.3bn employing 50,000. With an audience packed with horse-lovers, the motion was defeated overwhelmingly.

But the hungry might have different ideas.

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