By Max Clarke

The outlook is good for investing during 2011 thanks to a combination of continuing low interest rates, government policy and a range of exciting business opportunities in the county, according to Rupert Cox, Chief Executive of inward investment body Into Somerset.

“We are feeling cautiously optimistic about the future,” declares Cox. “The Bank of England’s decision to maintain the low interest rate of 0.5% means the prospects for borrowing and therefore for business growth and investment are maximised. At a time when many businesses are starting to think more positively about the future, this is a great boost for the economy.”

Times of recession are known to trigger a significant rise in new business start-ups and Somerset already has one of the highest business start-up rates of any county outside London. Figures released last year show that the South West as a region has seen the biggest increase in start-up businesses, seeing a 12 per cent growth in the year to the end of June 2010.

Somerset’s cost-effective commercial property prices, easy access to London and the South East in less than two hours and strong business support network all play a big part in this success. And its appeal now has an additional financial incentive too, thanks to a three-year scheme announced by the Government during the emergency Budget last summer. Businesses starting up outside London, the South East and the East of England are exempt from up to £5,000 of employers’ National Insurance Contributions in their first year of trading.

“This little-known tax break means it is more cost-effective than ever to set up a business in Somerset,” says Cox. “Around 20,000 people relocate here every year and the vast majority are from London and the South East, so this is another great incentive for them. With a wealth of opportunities here, such as the proposed £10billion investment in Hinkley Point, the £270million investment in the impressive Firepool Development in Taunton, and an enormous range of renewable energy projects and opportunities, there’s no better time for businesses to make the move to the country!”