Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are by far the largest employer in Eemsdelta. Of the more than 4,000 businesses, just 8 employ more than 200 people (threshold between SME and large company = 250 employees). Some 78% of the more than 24,000 people who work in Eemsdelta is employed by a site with fewer than 100 employees; to be more precise, this could include a number of sites that form part of an international group.
The driving force in SMEs are those companies who are independently focused on innovation of their product or operating process. These businesses achieve more than 50% of their turnover outside the three northern provinces. As they are small scale, SMEs often struggle to set up independent research into and development of new products and markets. It is essential that the government strengthens the innovative abilities and encourages export. The Chamber of Commerce and Syntens are in the middle of a merger process and together they will be the New Style Chamber of Commerce. They will only be financed with public resources and they will have their own innovation budget.
The Chamber of Commerce for the northern Netherlands considers the driving SMEs to be the most important target group and the Eemsdelta is – following the city of Groningen – the region in our province with the greatest opportunities for new innovations and developments. For the Province of Groningen this concerns a group of 1,470 companies (Source: CoC 2012), whilst in Eemsdelta it concerns a group of more than 100 businesses. NOM and the Groningen Provincial Executive also consider SMEs to be one of the most important engines of the regional economy.
The EZ office plays an explicitly important role in advising and informing SME entrepreneurs. The EZ office would like to fulfil a front office role for those companies for answering questions or referring them to the right back-office in the local authority or the Provincial Executive. Smaller companies in the SME sector (micro segment = fewer than 10 employees) have their own very specific needs for advice and support. Often they are companies where the entrepreneur is responsible for a large number of important tasks, including finance and sales and marketing. Ondernemingshuis Eemsdelta was set up for these companies and offers easy-to-access services from affiliated advisers and consultants. These services pertain to the various topics a smaller SME may come across, such as support with innovation and subsidy applications, financial audits and advice, business transfer and business reduction and/or cut-backs.