One of the best things about having such a variety of businesses within the membership of Chew Valley Chamber of Commerce is that we get a feel for the general health of our local economy. Although there are some causes for concern, I can report the story is mainly positive.

Let’s start with the member with most employees, Bristol Airport. They say they expect 1.5 million customers over the summer holidays, with as many as 37,000 flying on some days. But it’s not just tourists flying out of the country, plenty are coming to enjoy what the Chew Valley has to offer. One of our local accommodation providers says they are operating at 94% occupancy, thanks to things like summer weddings, regular business customers returning as well as tourists visiting Bath and Bristol and the surrounding areas.

No matter what the economy is doing, our pets still need feeding and grooming, so no wonder the PetHub is doing well as they come up to celebrating two successful years in business.

There are worrying signs elsewhere. A reduction in demand for hiring staff and the persistent skills shortage has meant tougher trading conditions for those in the world of recruitment, although even there, regular clients have kept people on. Of course, there’s no saying what impact the new Gigafactory that’s been announced for Bridgwater might have. Some reports predict 9,000 jobs will be created in the battery manufacturing facility.

The increase in interest rates seems to have contributed to a slow down in the residential property market, however we are told there are still some amazing properties available and prices are being set at realistic levels.

From the accountancy sector, we are hearing that when it comes to obtaining mortgages or re-mortgaging, sole traders and Company Directors are being scrutinised much more carefully by lenders than in the past. Their best advice is to get all the information lined up ready for any application well in advance, including up to date accounts and tax returns, rather than assuming it will be plain sailing.

On the subject of money, we recently offered members a chance to learn more about how to bid for grants which are available to businesses in North East Somerset from the West of England Combined Authority. It’s interesting to see that many businesses often choose not to bother applying, partly because they say it’s too difficult and time consuming. But there’s a great group working in the Council’s Skills Team who are always keen to help take the pain out of making applications and with money so hard to come by, it could be time well spent.

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Sandy Bell