For my part, I am an entrepreneur who moved to Bath earlier in the year – and I thought my “fresh eyes” might be able to offer a slightly different view.
Greg and David are both right – the economy of Bath will gain greatly by the growth of creative and technology businesses. However, I believe that the late Steve Jobs had it right – and that the biggest opportunity is at the intersection of liberal arts (creativity) and technology.
It’s important that these Bath communities work in concert to develop world class businesses together – not in isolation. This seems to already be in action with organisations like Bath Spark and Creative Bath working together – but it needs to generate new ventures.
I am not convinced that creation of technology or creative hubs by the council is the answer. Property is crucial – but it’s leadership that really matters. I see young entrepreneurs like David Kelly at Storm building a business, finding property and leading the charge. The very best model that I have seen is The Dispensary – which is run by Peter Whitehead of the creative agency, Radio. He has made a real personal commitment to one of Bath’s historical buildings – and shares if with many other creative businesses big and small. This is the sort of model that should be supported with tax breaks, rates relief, etc. That should be the supporting role of local government – catalysing, not doing.
The theme of crossing over and intersecting could equally be applied to Greg’s piece last week entitled “Bath = old people, or Bath = a cool place to do business?”. I’m very grateful for the older generation who come to Bath as visitors and spend their hard earned cash with our tourist trade. It helps to make the city such a beautiful place to live and work – and supports so many services that we would not have without them. I am sure that is the “old people” that Jeremy Paxman had in mind when Greg spoke to him.
What Greg misses is that there are many older Bath residents who through their experience could help many of our growing businesses.
The city has a fantastic history – and seems to have pioneered this arts and technology intersection with organisations like the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (which a contact recently referred to as having a “seemingly octogenarian audience”). I’ve lived through a generation which has successfully dispensed with racism and sexism – but sadly agism is a trait we have not yet cast off. I’m in my late 40s – and consider it a great age that gives the right balance between youthful enthusiasm and historical experience. My point is that bringing young and old together will benefit development of business. Young entrepreneurs want to gain experience – and older folk want to still be in touch with new ideas. The interchange of enthusiasm and experience is essential to grow meaningful businesses.
Let’s not try to polarise that we have to chose between Old or Cool – much like Creativity and Technology, the “sweet spot” is when they meet!