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Appetite For Expansion Is Out There, Says Exchange Chief

The chief executive of the Entrepreneurial Exchange said members are showing more appetite for expansion than they did last year.

However, John Anderson said finding a safe way to grow remains a key issue for members at a time when the outlook for the economy remains unclear.

Speaking ahead of today's annual Entrepreneurial Exchange conference at Gleneagles, Mr Anderson reported clear signs of an improvement in sentiment among the kind of risk takers that ministers hope will power growth in Scotland.

"There's no doubt that there are opportunities out there and we are seeing more people grabbing these," said Mr Anderson, who believes Scotland's entrepreneurs have performed well amid challenging conditions.

He said judges faced a real challenge narrowing the entries for the recent entrepreneur of the year award to a shortlist of three.

The award was won by Colin Robertson, who runs the Alexander Dennis bus manufacturing business, and will speak at the conference. Other speakers will include Vera Weisfeld, OBE, founder of What Every Woman Wants.

However, Mr Anderson noted that many entrepreneurs had been devoting a lot of energy to ensuring their businesses were in shape to deal with tough trading conditions. For many this has involved looking to maximise efficiency.

"They are all running really lean now," he said.

"In the current economic climate, most businesses are erring on the side of caution when it comes to large-scale investments and business development opportunities. There is no doubt that one of the biggest concerns for our membership is finding safe ways to ensure that their companies continue to grow," noted Mr Anderson. He added: "A big difference between this recession and previous recessions is the absence or lack of access to funding."

Mr Anderson said there had been some improvement in conditions in bank funding markets recently, although lenders are taking a long time to reach decisions.

He said Clydesdale Bank, which sponsors the annual conference, appeared to be showing a greater appetite to lend than rivals like Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland.

The Entrepreneurial Exchange formed a partnership with Clydesdale 18 months ago under which it provides services like specialist funding workshops and one-to-one advice sessions. Mr Anderson shares information with bank officials.

"Through our relationship with Clydesdale Bank, we are increasingly able to point our members in the right direction when it comes to finding the most suitable financial support packages available," said Mr Anderson.

Established in 1995, the Exchange has over 400 members heading up companies with a collective turnover of £20 billion plus.

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