THE outlook for the UK economy may be flat but businesses in York can benefit from numerous opportunities, delegates heard at the York Business Conference.

The second annual York Business Conference, organised by City of York Council and sponsored by Langleys, helped launch York Business Week.

Conference delegates heard from James Alexander, leader of City of York Council, and Yorkshire Bank’s chief economist, Tom Vosa.

Mr Vosa warned seven years of credit bubble before the crash would need to be mirrored before the economy corrected itself.

He said: “We are not really looking at exiting this until 2014. It’s a long hard slog.”

But he said the global economy was still growing with 75 per cent of the world’s population living in an economy that was growing by six per cent.

He said even if China’s growth slowed to seven per cent growth, it would still be growing by the size of Greece’s economy every six months.

Mr Vosa reassured businesses the Eurozone would not allow countries such as Greece to fail.

He said: “The underlying trend for UK growth has been weak and disappointing. Even the one per cent growth we saw in the third quarter has to be treated with caution.

“Despite the talk about austerity, Government spending hasn’t been falling as much as we might perceive. The Government so far has been one of the major drivers of growth despite the austerity agenda.”

But he warned more businesses may fail in 2013 as banks came under pressure to remove “zombie” business – those scraping a living – from their balance sheets.

“The outlook is volatile but things are slowly improving.”

Coun Alexander said the city’s £28.5 million fund for local infrastructure projects had given the city its own fiscal stimulus and he said that following the announcement of Hiscox bringing hundreds of jobs to York the council intended to target other businesses which could benefit from York’s existing supply chain.

He said: “We can confidently say that the city is in a better place than it was a year ago and we have begun on the path to delivery.

“York really does mean business.”


Success demands nerve, says Sophie

ENTREPRENEUR Sophie Jewett encouraged like-minded people to “just go for it” at the York Business Conference.

The founder of York Cocoa House told delegates at the event, held at York Racecourse yesterday, how she built up her business from scratch to investing £200,000 in the local economy in her first year and employing 28 full and part-time staff.

Starting out making chocolates to order under the name of Little Pretty Things, Sophie started looking for premises and launched York Cocoa House in Blake Street a year ago.

Being offered £2.5 million in funding from a business angel gave her confidence in her idea and encouraged her to go it alone.

“If you’ve got the nerve to jump from a cliff, you might as well find the biggest cliff you can,” she said.

Sophie, who has studied York’s chocolate industry forebears to understand the business better, encouraged businesses to ask for help and challenged them to share their knowledge with others to help everyone improve their business.

She said: “Businesses should be less protective over what it is that you do and know. In sharing a little bit of you, you can help somebody else really succeed.”


Businesses should stoke creativity

MARCUS Romer, a dentist turned playwright, director and actor, challenged every business to find its creative side at the York Business Conference.

The artistic director of international touring company the Pilot Theatre, said every person was a different kind of artist, and the term creative sector inferred there was an “uncreative” sector.

“Everyone’s creative. It’s how to unlock that creativity.”

He compared the Pilot Theatre with starfish, in that when you cut off a limb it becomes a new starfish.

“In these days of cuts and austerity, you need to think outside the box. If one strand of the organisation goes, the whole of the organisation isn’t going to disappear. We have to be thinking more like starfish,” he said.