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Problems were not as big as people predicted

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

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WE started 2013 with a number of economics and business commentators rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a triple-dip recession.

As I write my last column of the year we are experiencing much faster growth than many institutions predicted. How did they get it so wrong? asks Robert Zarywacz.

Having got sick and tired of gloom-mongers celebrating what they thought was a double-dip recession, the prospect of their ecstasy over a triple dip was terrifying.

Yet not only did it never happen, but even the double dip was revised out of existence as government statistics finally caught up 18 months later.

Had we all shared a Dallas-style dream and woken up to reality?

Speaking to North Devon business owners every week, it was clear that something was wrong. Yes, there are problems, big problems, just like anywhere else in the country and across the world, but many firms were not on their knees.

We did see the collapse of a number of big national multiple retailers, but often nimble, local independents with leaner operations replaced them. We have seen so many pubs close too, but again much of that is a national problem centred around pubcos, which the Government is failing to address.

The real picture is that those local businesses which have survived since 2008 have had to reinvent themselves, find new investment and take control of cashflow.

Watching the huge amount of business development activity in the area over the past four years, it's no surprise that these efforts are now bearing fruit.

Many have invested thousands of pounds from savings, from family and from selling assets, because borrowing from banks and financial institutions is still not an option, and this doesn't show up in investment statistics.

I believe that this invisible, unreported investment adds up to billions across the country.

North Devon businesses are also setting the standards in many sectors. The past few months have seen a string of awards wins in tourism, food and manufacturing. We don't just do these things, but often are the best at doing them.

That's not to say 2014 will be easy and we can all relax. The global economy is still volatile with Europe, a major market, still impossible to fathom.

I hope the festive season gives many of our hard-working entrepreneurs a space to breathe and relax before the new year begins. Hopefully, we will see more superfast broadband reaching our communities, a more confident tourism sector after the abandonment of the Atlantic Array, consolidation of the many new independent traders replacing failed multiples and some of our beloved pubs reopening.

Whatever does happen, I'm sure North Devon businesses will tackle the challenges with enthusiasm.

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