Companies continue to thrive

Award wins, multi-million pound investment in expansion, job creation and ground-breaking service innovations are the hallmarks of businesses thriving in Ashford, which is the fastest growing town between London and Continental Europe.

Ashford was voted the best place in Kent to do business in a poll by investment and business relocation agency Locate in Kent and it continues to attract and support long-established businesses and start-ups alike.

Ashford-based firms RIFT Group and Breakthrough Funding were triumphant in the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Awards this month. Breakthrough Funding won the Most Promising New Business accolade. It helps SMEs claim cash for innovation – the firm has claimed back £7m in cash and tax relief, enabling their tech pioneers to expand and thrive.

RIFT scooped the Excellence in Customer Service Award. Formed in 1999, the family-run business now employs 170 staff and specialises in tax refund and accounting services, focused on consumers and the SME market.

Also at the awards Katy Barker of Ashford’s Directline Structures was honoured as a finalist in the Young Person in Business of the Year 2017.

Chamber Chief Executive Jo James said:

“The quality of applications continues to increase year on year, just going to show that Kent is truly an entrepreneurial county. The awards are about demonstrating business at its best and the RIFT Group and Breakthrough Funding are exceptional winners.”

Pioneering work is being carried out by Ashford-based medical device manufacturer Integrated Technologies Limited, known as ITL Group. It is working in a consortium of 20 companies including technology giants, Phillips and Siemens, to create new products to improve cancer treatment.

ITL hopes to develop an improved cancer imaging device to identify the size of tumours. The firm will manufacture prototypes based on designs by King’s College London, which will be presented to Harvard Medical School this summer.

Combining business with pleasure are Ashford entrepreneurs Steve and Lisa Wootton, who are investing £1.5m in developing one of the biggest trampoline arenas in the South East. Flip Out is due to open in the town this spring, with the couple currently recruiting up to 60 staff to run the 28,000 sq ft family entertainment centre.

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said:

“Ashford is widely recognised as the most business-friendly location in the county. As a business-savvy local authority, we do all we can to nurture enterprise and commercial flair and it’s no surprise to see so many local employers continuing to thrive and prosper.”

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