Cornwall’s outstanding environment is one of its most powerful assets. It’s rich in natural capital (both above and below ground) and alive with opportunity. The creative and innovative opportunities that present themselves are significant and there is no reason why the county cannot achieve a successful future for business, people, and the environment.
Regional areas are held back due to a lack of investment
However, like all rural areas of the UK, Cornwall is held back due to a lack of investment. Currently, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has the lowest level of investment in research, development and innovation. They have the lowest levels of productivity (gross value added GVA per hour worked) of any LEP area in England, with lower than average productivity playing out across all broad sector groups, with all underperforming the UK average.
30.8% of total employment is provided by micro firms, the highest proportion among all LEP areas reflecting a lack of larger companies. The growth of new businesses is below average and far fewer start-ups achieve scale-up; all resulting in a lack of higher-paying jobs within the county. In short, a lack of investment is holding the county back and stymying its efforts to realise its potential.
Where can the much-needed investment come from?
Investment is significantly below the national average in Cornwall. Banks are withdrawing their lending support from a range of sectors and, with the recent end of the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS), the government has now closed the pandemic emergency loan schemes they put in place for businesses.
Despite the staycation boom, the race for space, and the need to level up, the issue remains that most banks and funders don’t fully understand the needs and values of rural businesses, so the funding gap persists. In effect, rural businesses are discriminated against compared to their urban counterparts. Simply put there are invisible barriers to finance for small businesses in the regions. We can have a rural renaissance, but we need to level the playing field.
FOLK2FOLK was founded nine years ago to solve this problem. We exist to help enable our country’s regions to be viable places to live and work. Our answer is to incentivise investment into the regions by offering an attractive reward (of a fixed monthly income, secured against property) and facilitate a circular economy. Via this mechanism, people and institutions are able to invest in their region’s businesses, which often results in a flow-on of local and regional benefits such as job creation. To enable a free flow of capital within the regions we’ve directed more than £550 million of investment into regional small businesses since 2013.
Cornwall’s future could lie beyond tourism
Cornwall has a worldwide reputation for its natural rugged beauty, as well as its food and drink, all of which have fuelled tourism as the major economic contributor to the county. The political, business, and finance world are now taking sustainability seriously and the need to move towards net-zero, Cornwall, with its abundance of natural assets, has an opportunity to attract clean investment. We are now starting to see this taking place – huge offshore wind potential, deep geothermal and extraction of minerals such as lithium for the low carbon transition. But the opportunities are not just limited to these headline-grabbing projects.
Being creative and innovative with its natural assets will lead to a very promising future for Cornwall we believe, and it’s one that FOLK2FOLK is fully behind.