The huge role the Marches Growth Hub played in helping businesses through the height of the pandemic is revealed today in new figures.

The hub – the business support service of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership – had more than 30,000 separate interactions with businesses across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin in just 12 months.

The figures – for the period from April 1 2020 to March 31 2021 – are contained in the hub’s annual report to the Government showing the success of its work in supporting the business community across the Marches.

They reveal:
A total of 30,277 business interactions took place – a 197 per cent increase on the year before

782 individuals were helped to start a business – a rise of 16.7 per cent

13,980 referrals were made to partner organisations – including EU programmes worth £19.5million – a 1,017 per cent increase

There were a total of 235 virtual growth hub events attended by 5,930 people

The national Business Support Helpline (BSH) handled a total of 1,457 Marches calls – a 210 per cent increase

The Marches Growth Hub website received 45,990 website visits with 30,663 unique visitors – increases of 35 and 37 per cent respectively

Customer satisfaction was consistently high – between 4.5 and 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is poor service and 5 is excellent

The website’s coronavirus and EU Exit advice pages featured daily updates on the latest advice, ensuring the hub became an essential part of the region’s toolkit for tackling the pandemic and EU Exit

Dave Courteen, Marches LEP small business champion and chair of the Marches Business Support steering group, said the figures showed the huge role the hub – which is delivered in partnership with Herefordshire Council, Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council – had played at the height of Covid.

“These figures show that when the pandemic struck businesses turned to the Marches Growth Hub for advice, support and help in record numbers.

“They did so because they knew that in the hub they had a trusted, valued partner which could offer clear, up-to-the minute and relevant help and guidance in the midst of the unfolding crisis.

“Alongside that, the hub was also at the forefront of offering the latest updates over our exit from the EU, something which before the pandemic was at the top of the agenda for a huge number of businesses.

“The scale of help we were able to offer – despite being curtailed ourselves by Covid restrictions – is a huge testament to the hard work and passion of the entire Marches Growth Hub team as well as our local authority delivery partners.

“We quickly moved many of our workshops, seminars and advice sessions online, developed access to 45 new one-to-one business specialists who alone helped 178 businesses, and worked collaboratively as part of the West Midlands cluster of growth hubs to ensure maximum impact through our work.

“The fact that we were able to maintain the highest level of satisfaction from the businesses we were helping at such a difficult time just underlines the professionalism and skill of all those involved with the hub.”

The hub brings together national, regional and local support in one place to ensure that businesses have the help and advice they need to both start up and grow. Its comprehensive website features links to advice programmes, workshops, events, funding information, regional and national assistance and an unrivalled database of business support.