Helping hand is vital for firms and the unemployed in the Portsmouth area

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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We may have been through some tough times economically, but there are businesses out there full of optimism and keen to expand.

They see opportunities for growth and that means creating jobs. Often all they need is some advice and guidance to help them along the way.

So we are delighted to report today that a new business hub has been launched to provide firms locally with the expertise they need to make that step to getting bigger, or maybe diversifying into new markets.

The University of Portsmouth and Hampshire Chamber of Commerce are behind the Solent Growth Hub, which has been paid for with a £2.6m grant from the government’s Regional Growth Fund.

It may not sound a big sum, but it could make a real difference in what the hub can offer to businesses who’ll now be able to get all the knowledge they need in one place.

As the university’s director of innovation services Alistair McDermott says, making the right connection at the right time or getting a certain piece of information can be all that is needed for a company to spread its wings and really fly.

Boosting business in the Solent region is vital to economic recovery and firms will be reassured to know that support is out there and readily accessible.

Meanwhile we also report today on how unemployed over-50s and ex-seafarers are being given the chance to explore how to set up their own businesses.

The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise is coming to the city to deliver business training workshops in the naval base. They will take people through the potentially daunting process of starting up their own company, from finances to legal aspects and putting together a business plan.

Again this is an important initiative as there are 1,100 over-50s unable to get a job in the Portsmouth area.

Self-employment is a way back into work for a section of society who still have so much to give yet frustratingly find their age a potential barrier to getting a job.