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Companies flock to Ashford

Fast road and rail links, a ‘can-do’ business mentality and a host of new business opportunities are persuading a growing number of companies to relocate to Ashford, the fastest growing town between London and the Continent.

Firms in the creative and IT sectors have led the rush to set up operations in Ashford – these include Sagittarius Marketing, The Art of Design and New World Telecom.

Sagittarius, an award-winning digital design and marketing consultancy, had spent 30 years in Folkestone before moving to Ashford this autumn, settling into a town centre office just minutes from Ashford International Station and its 37 minute high-speed rail service to London.

“Ashford is a dynamic location with a real ‘can-do’ business mentality. What’s more it has incredible road and rail connectivity, including the new 140mph rail service to London which is enabling us to service clients in the capital with ease,” said chief executive officer Paul Stephen.

The Art of Design is a creative design consultancy formed in Ashford in 1994, specialising in graphic design for print, digital media and exhibition. Clients include Givaudan, Pfizer, BBC, Network Rail, and the Department of Health.

As business development manager Samantha Boxall explained, the firm moved to larger premises in Maidstone in 2000 but has ‘returned to our roots’ in Ashford. “Our long term plan was always to return to Ashford, an area we associate with tremendous growth and business potential and now we look forward to taking advantage to all that the area has to offer,” she added.

Larry Linin is managing director of New World Telecom, which has been based in Surbiton in Surrey since 1992. With most of its business conducted in Surrey, Kent and Sussex, the firm was looking for a location that would offer not only immediate business opportunities but also long-term growth potential.

“We considered a number of centres but were influenced by the attraction of Ashford as a developing town with its international rail link attracting businesses like ours to the area,” said Larry, who has moved his family home to the outskirts of the town.

A host of other companies has chosen Ashford in the past year, including Smiths Medical International Ltd which relocated its European HQ to a 36,295 sq ft office at the Eureka Business Park. Design and construction specialist Directline Structures needed room to grow its business and moved to Ashford from west Kent.

Directline Structures built its own striking new HQ on the Orbital Park. The office boasts many environmentally-friendly features and the firm has just won an award at the London and South East Constructing Excellence Awards, and recognition for sustainable design and construction at the 2010 Kent Environment Awards.

Looking ahead, many more companies are eyeing up business opportunities in Ashford, according to investment promotion agency Locate in Kent. Its recent 2010 Perception Study showed that it has 70 firms with potential projects looking at Ashford.

Judith Armitt, managing director of Ashford’s Future, the agency overseeing the town’s £2.5bn public and private sector growth programme, said an increasing number of national and international companies are aware that Ashford is best placed to support their growing businesses in the 21st century.

“Ashford acts as a magnet for business because of, rather than despite, continued economic uncertainties. Ashford is the only town in the UK with a full high-speed rail service to London. It is a thriving, expanding and self-confident place, the powerhouse economy of Kent.”

Media release 0312/10

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