Mid-market ambition helps Reading become Britain's growth capital

Throughout 2017, LDC is searching the entrepreneurial heartlands of England, Scotland and Wales as part of its Backing Business Ambition tour, to uncover and showcase Britain's most inspiring and ambitious businesses. Here, we take a closer look at the South East.

Reading is now the fastest-growing economy in the UK, according to a recent report, outperforming London by a factor of two. This is partly because of the success of Reading’s digital industries, but also down to its growing prominence in financial services, technology and manufacturing.

Its buoyant midmarket sector has capitalised on the brain drain from London, providing a growing talent pool to tap into, as skilled workers are increasingly moving out of the capital to reduce their living costs. With an expanding pool of quality, high-growth firms, Reading and its surrounding areas were a natural stopping point.

The town’s infrastructure and opportunities are hailed by local business owners. For Richard Jones, boss of Softbox Systems, which is based a few miles north of the city, the area has great transport links and affordable office space which is conducive to doing business. His company moves billions of vaccines and drugs around the world each year, so connectivity from its base is vital.

Explore Learning founder Bill Mills will have nearly 140 tutoring centres all over the UK by the end of this year. It’s just one example of a firm that started in Reading and has scaled up nationally - a testament to the region’s growth ambitions.

But for Harvey Water Softeners, which makes and sells consumer systems for removing hard water minerals from mains water, simply being based in Britain is a boon for business. The weak pound, driven by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, has made its products far cheaper than those produced by international rivals.

Backing Business Ambition 2017