'Can I say first of all what a pleasure it is to be present at these
awards for Inner City 100 - these 'Oscars for Business'; to thank not
running IC100, but the lead sponsors, Royal Bank of Scotland and
Natwest; to be able to congratulate all of you who are finalists for
the contribution you make both to your community and to the British
economy; and to say that Inner City 100 is not just a competition
between new high growth firms in our inner cities but a celebration
of the dynamism of new enterprise in our inner cities.
This competition - Inner City 100 - which I was proud to be present
at the start of two years ago with only a few entries, now has - with
over 400 nominations from across the country this year and over a
thousand since the awards began - become the premier showcase for the
initiative, innovation and renewal that is a feature of so many of
our inner cities today.
From fashion to food, construction to computer software, recruitment
to property renovation, Inner City 100 firms are leading the way:
- providing services like community transport, basic skills training
and care services which are benefiting your local area;
- taking innovative approaches to staff recruitment and training;
- utilising environmentally friendly products and processes;
- and developing hi tech solutions to problems.
And as a result of the work you - and others like you - are doing
across the country, small business creation rates remain strong and
survival rates continue to improve, despite the global downturn.
There are 133,000 more VAT registered companies today than in 1997.
And there are more people starting businesses in our highest
unemployment areas; and more people from different backgrounds
realising that a career in business can be for the m.
And in thanking all of you for what you have achieved - and will
achieve - I want, in the minute or two I have, to show how your
achievements, your ingenuity and your creativity are building a new
Britain of enterprise and initiative.
Your successes show that the British economy will do best when
enterprise is open not just to a privileged elite but where men and
women from all social backgrounds are encouraged to know that with
the banks on their side, with local authorities backing their
efforts, with community support for them as role models for the
young, they can transform their ideas and hopes into business start
up and growing firms.
A Britain where people know what matters is not where you come from
but what you do, not where you were born but what you aspire to; a
Britain where we break down the old barriers to opportunity and
everyone has the chance to move ahead.
And I can assure you that, on your side, the Government intends to
play its part removing the barriers to start ups, to growing
businesses, to the development of enterprisein all areas especially
the inner cities:
- building a competitive environment;
- investing in skills and science;
- and enthusing young people with the spirit of enterprise.
And with 5000 new jobs created across the country as a result of your
successes - and average growth in your companies of nearly 600 per
cent over the last five years - all of you here today have proved
that inner cities and established industrial areas should be seen as
new markets with competitive advantages - their strategic locations,
their often untapped retail markets, and the potential of their
workforce. But there are still too many areas in Britain where
businesses face special problems in obtaining access to support,
advice and finance.
So to stimulate business-led growth in our inner cities and estates,
we have created enterprise areas in the 2000 most deprived wards in
the country - where with the abolition of stamp duty, fast track
planning permission, community investment tax relief, financial
incentives to do payroll on line and the possibility of enhance
capital allowances for renovating business premises - we will give
special help with starting up, employing, training and investment.
You have sent me your Entrepreneurs' Manifesto and building on our
capital gains, small business and corporation tax cuts, I promise you
that the Pre Budget Report will make it easier to start up a
business, help bridge the equity gap and cut red tape for small firms
by further simplifying VAT administration and reducing your audit
We know that the key to your success has been getting the best people
and the best out of your people, so with
- the return of apprenticeships - once dying now taken up by one
quarter of a million young people;
- the new University for Industry - Learn Direct - which has already
given nearly 1 million adults the chance to take courses from
literacy to language to IT;
- and the employer training pilots that offer paid time off to train
towards relevant skills
we are investing more today in education and workplace skills than at
any time in our history. So that we can continue to do so, and do
more, it is right to move ahead with the reforms in the structure and
funding of higher education. It is right that once students become
graduates they make a greater contribution. That is why as Tony Blair
has said today it is essential that our reforms proceed through the
House of Commons. In this way we can both get more money into
ensuring excellence in our universities and extend opportunities to
more young people who would otherwise be denied the higher education
chances that would benefit them.
Later this week the Lambert Report will propose that universities
receive greater encouragement to commercialise their research and
already we are investing an extra one and a quarter billion pounds a
year to expand the science research infrastructure and train more
skilled scientists and engineers.
But if we are to truly have the deeper andwider entrepreneurial
culture we need we must start in our schools and colleges. I want
every young person to be enthused with the spirit of enterprise;
every teacher willing to extol the virtues of a career in commerce.
And we will work more closely with the United States to encourage
young entrepreneurs --- including giving young business men and women
in disadvantaged areas of Britain the chance to spend a semester at
an American business school and setting up a forum to bring together
some of the brightest young UK and US entrepreneurs to learn from
Let me conclude by telling you what you are achieving here engages a
Last month with winners of past Inner City 100 competitions, the US
Treasury Secretary John Snow and I took some of Britain's foremost
business leaders, including Richard Branson and Stellios Haji-Ioannou
from Easygroup, to meet successful entrepreneurs from the West
Midlands - including some of you here tonight.
The men and women we met - and indeed all of you here this evening -
truly are local heroes, role models for others in your communities.
And I urge each and everyone of you to continue to spread your
expertise and experience to others - working in your communities,
with young people, with schools and colleges, becoming business
mentors - encouraging and nurturing Britain's next generation of
And working together in this way I believe we can not only change
perceptions of the inner city as a business location but build a
wider, deeper enterprise culture where from the poorest to the
richest community, from left to right of the political spectrum,
starting a business or becoming self employed is seen as open to all
with the talent, ideas and will to do it. Building a strong, dynamic,
economic culture not just in prosperous areas but right across