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Lincoln businesses experiencing “a golden era” despite high street woes

Several Lincoln businesses claim the city is experiencing “a golden era” with companies benefiting from a flurry of investment and economic activity.

Although a recent report from Lincolnshire County Council predicted “catastrophic failures” on the county’s high streets and city centre retailers have reported a 25% drop in takings year on year, other businesses in the Lincoln area are experiencing rising profits.

Lincoln-based Minster Surfacing is projecting record revenue as a result of being engaged in several major developments and infrastructure projects in the area. Minster’s managing director, Bruce Spencer-Knott says the city is making a name for itself as a place to do business:

“This year is shaping up to be a record year for Minster Surfacing. We’ve been working on more jobs than ever before and things are continuing to build. Over the last year, it’s been a race to keep up with the amount of work we’re getting; so much so that we’re taking on more employees and creating new jobs in the city. Whether it’s the county’s roads, the new bus station, bypass or the Cornhill development in the city, there’s been a lot of investment in our area and that’s been great for the construction sector. This year, we’re on track to using a record 70,000 tonnes of asphalt around the county, which goes to show just how just how much is being built and developed.

“It used to be that when you were pitching for work in London and you said you were based in Lincoln, you’d get a blank stare, but now Lincoln is firmly on the map. This city has a growing reputation for business and innovation which is being recognised not only in this country, but internationally as well. It really is a golden era for us.”

Accountants and business advisers, Duncan & Toplis has been operating in Lincolnshire for the last 93 years. The company, as well as many of its clients are also experiencing an increase in profits. Last year, the company generated an extra £1.32 million turnover, making Duncan & Toplis one of the UK’s top 30 accountants in 2018. Duncan & Toplis director, Damon Brain said the company’s success has been mirrored by many of its clients:

“Lincolnshire has been our home through several generations and while some companies are undoubtedly struggling, particularly high street retailers, many others are doing very well indeed. New businesses in particular enjoying a lot of success, with several new companies having grown to become very stable and very profitable businesses in the last few years. One can never be complacent, but we’re hearing a lot of good news among Lincolnshire’s businesses at the moment.”

The economic success isn’t limited to long-established companies; Distract, a digital marketing agency based in Lincoln recently celebrated its third anniversary with revenues for the last year having more than doubled those of the year before, rising by 113% on top of second year results which in turn were 289% higher than in year one. The company has has won several industry awards for its work and has been taking on new employees in response to more work for a wide range of clients,  making it one of the fastest growing agencies in the east midlands, and the largest in the county.

Earlier this year, the company’s co-founders, Peter Watson and Bradley McKenny started Distract’s sister company, Featured; an investment and growth incubator which has been dubbed “Lincoln’s Dragons Den”. The company invites new entrepreneurs to pitch their tech businesses to the duo to secure their investment and business support.

Managing director of Distract and Featured, Peter Watson said the city’s universities have been a major factor in the growth of the city’s creative industries:

“When we started Distract in 2016, we were still in our final year at the University of Lincoln which gave us the perfect environment in which we could start a business and invest everything into helping it grow. Now we’re established, we’re able to tap into an almost constant stream of young, talented people who are graduating from the two universities. As the city is growing, we’re seeing more and more demand for our services as more businesses are able to benefit from investing in their continued growth.

“Lincoln is a cool place to do business and it’s an excellent springboard from which we’re able to reach the rest of the country. This city has a lot going for it and it’s been very good to us. Through Featured, we’re helping other new entrepreneurs to grow and scale up their businesses too. This city is full of creative and ambitious new entrepreneurs and it’s really exciting to be helping them on their way.”

Meanwhile, new businesses are in the process of establishing themselves in the city. is a proptech startup that provides an automated property management platform for landlords and tenants. Launching in 2019, the company aims to streamline the entire lettings and property management process. Co-Founder, Aaron Short said Lincoln has played a key role in helping him start the business:

“As a University of Lincoln graduate, this city made the perfect setting for starting up my business because it’s so full of talent. We’ve now got a growing team of designers, developers and user experience specialists and the booming rental market in the city is giving us a great foundation on which we’re hoping to build. Lincoln has a buzzing business scene and there’s a lot of potential here.”

Lincoln also boasts a large number of successful micro-businesses. Two of those are Lincoln-based PR agency, Carrington Communications and online retailer Igluu Meal Prep. Both companies are based at the business incubator, BG Futures at Bishop Grosseteste University and are rapidly growing.

Husband and wife duo Dr Wai Ping Liu and Matthew Balf started their company, Igluu which sells sealable meal prep containers as a store on ebay but now they’re selling thousands of containers a year as an independent retailer. Meanwhile, Carrington Communications, which started two years ago has built up a team of three and supports around twenty clients including major regional employers, SMEs, arts events and charities.

Simon Beardsley, chief executive officer of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce said:

“We ask our members each quarter how their business is performing and despite the headwinds associated with factors such as exceptional weather events and Brexit uncertainties, many Lincolnshire businesses tell us they have continued to enjoy a very positive outlook in 2018 and suggest that growth will continue beyond.

“We have been fortunate to be able to support a number of substantial projects through our delivery of a Regional Growth Fund, which has in turn supported a number of significant capital purchases that have directly lead to growth and increased employment across the county.  

“As a membership organisation, our members are at the heart of what we do. We always attempt to add value to their membership and we are therefore delighted at the success they have achieved and the knock on effect that has for their employees and the wider Lincolnshire economy.”

Damon Brain from Duncan & Toplis says that the businesses’ recent success in Lincoln is likely to be caused by a number of factors:

“Companies that have been operating for several years have had to adapt to changes in the marketplace and many were struggling following the recession, but the economy of the UK has been growing steadily over recent years and so part of this will be a result of that. The growth of the city’s two universities will also be having a big impact on the economy as it encourages economically active young people to settle in the city, pursue careers and start businesses of their own here. Another factor will be the recent investment in the city, whether its in infrastructure like the new bus station, office space like Think Tank, retail destinations like the Cornhill or attractions like the International Bomber Command Centre. Each of those investments puts the city on the map, inspires optimism and puts money into the local economy.”

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