Monday 16 August 2010

Businesses in Wales, A North-South divide?

North Wales was a successful destination for my holiday this year, with fantastic scenery, great beaches and lots to visit! It was also a region that from a business perspective looked very dependent on tourism, as hinted at by some people I talked to.

Was this true? Curiosity overcame me on my return home and some of the results are here in the slideshow above.

Looking at Wales overall, there is an indication of the impact of tourism in the high retail and accommodation business categories. However, this is balanced by business support and professional, scientific and technical businesses.Agriculture is also important.

The interesting results come when you break down the different business categories by county and region. The combined numbers of businesses for all the counties from Anglesey to Ceredigion and Powys (2/3rds of Wales) were outnumbered by the activity of the Southern Wales counties.

If Camarthernshire and Pembrokeshire are added to the 2/3rds or Wales, then the graph of business categories shows a clear distinction between those 4/5ths of Wales where Agriculture was a significant activity and the 1/5 in the south where it was not.

We stayed in Gwynedd where the dominant businesses are agriculture, construction, retail and accommodation, reflecting the impressions that I had gained.

There is an existing base of professional, scientific & technical as well as business support businesses. Surprisingly, the labour statistics suggest that whilst less positive than for England, the Gwynedd figures are not too dissimilar to the rest of Wales and the numbers of people qualified at all levels are high than in the rest of the country.

With self employment jobs in Wales increasing overall, this might be a route forward for new enterprise births in sectors outside of tourism. The geographic isolation would be irrelevant, especially if the communications network for mobile and network based broadband was good enough. BT already claims that it has 99% coverage and rival Virgin is testing out alternative routes via electricity cables.

The question is, in these economic hard times, will there be a real committment to fast track the 4/5ths of Wales that are lagging behind the 1/5th in the South, to give them a securer economic future.

Report UK Business: Activity,. Size and Location – 2009.
NOMIS Labour Market Profile for Gwynedd
Statistics for Wales: Statistical Bulletin; Key Economic Statistics for August 2010
BT Broadband statement on coverage
Virgin's Broadband via electricity cables

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