A quick Google search describes it as a city “clustered around a large fortress and medieval old town”, once the ancient capital of Scotland where King James VI was crowned in 1567. All true – and well worth a visit – but perhaps not a thrusting, dynamic environment suited to the modern business world?
Think again! Last year a national poll placed Stirling as the best city in Scotland to start a new business – and eighth overall in the UK, ahead of Manchester, London and Birmingham. It is also the most entrepreneurial city in Scotland, with 100 more businesses per 10,000 population than the Scottish average.
Excellent travel links and a highly educated workforce are key benefits in the area, attracting innovative companies like Dogfi.sh Mobile who are based in Stirling because they need a steady supply of top business and technical talent, as well as access to global markets. Stirling is only 35 minutes from both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, and last year saw the launch of a direct train service to London King’s Cross, increasing the transport links to a geographical area ideally situated right in the middle of Scotland.
The technical talent comes from the University of Stirling, which ranks seventh in the UK for graduate employability, with 96 per cent placed in employment or further study within six months of graduating. Add to this the multi-award winning Forth Valley College, which also has a state-of-the-art campus in Stirling, and it is clear that there is no shortage of young talent for employers to recruit.
All of these accolades and achievements are in themselves impressive, but from my point of view as chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, the key to the transformation happening in Stirling is collaboration. The economic development team at Stirling council work hand in hand with key organisations across the region to form a joined-up network of support for businesses, from start-ups to multi-nationals across a range of high-performing sectors.
Major players such as Prudential, Capita, Graham’s The Family Dairy and Ogilvie Group all work alongside smaller businesses and the public sector on initiatives such as Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce and the Cities Commission, and this was publicly recognised in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this year, when it was confirmed that Stirling’s City Deal bid has been approved.
The announcement followed months of discussions and planning about the proposed benefits of the City Deal, which will include a revitalisation of the river and harbour, a Digital District to build on Stirling’s growing reputation ad leaders in digital innovation and enterprise, and a Grow-on Space for incubating SMEs. The multi-million pound investment will position Stirling as an economic and cultural powerhouse in the years to come, attracting inward investment from across the UK.
To be heading up a young and vibrant Chamber of Commerce at this time is tremendously exciting for me. There is a real buzz in the air, a sense of optimism and we are looking forward to welcoming business owners and entrepreneurs from far and wide in 2017 and beyond.
And of course, when they are finished meeting with us, we’ll send them on to the Castle!
• Michelle McKearnon is chief executive of Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, incorporating Stirling Chamber of Commerce