The Kent Excellence in Business Awards have been an important part of the RIFT story over the years. We've always been inspired by the project, and were incredibly honoured to win their Customer Service and Commitment Award in 2015. Since then, we've moved from contestant to sponsor and part of the judging team.
This year, KEiBA is launching a new category in the awards, celebrating the Medium Business of the Year. The award is open to businesses in any sector, and recognises a lot more than just commercial success. Commitment to customers and staff, innovative thinking and finding ways to give back to the local community are all considered. To win is to be recognised as a significant benefit to Kent, as well as a strong, well-founded business.
The Medium Business of the Year category is an important development for the KEiBA scheme, and a great sign of the strength and growth of Kentish businesses. RIFT itself has grown into a medium-sized business over the 9 years that the awards have been running. That gives us a strong insider's perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses scaling up in Kent. It's also why we're particularly proud to be a sponsor of the KEiBA project, and to be judging this particular category.
Our MD, Bradley Post, will be acting as judge alongside Tudor Price, the Head of Business for the Kent and Medway Growth Hub. This organisation was set up by the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce to help new and existing businesses fuel their growth, so it's great to be sharing the stage with them. They work closely with universities, private business and local authorities to offer a one-stop shop for business support and information. Like RIFT, they've got a clear and expert understanding of what it takes to make a success in business, and they're doing everything they can to share that understanding throughout the Kent business community.
We actually already have a strong working relationship with the KICC, as we've partnered with them on the Low Carbon Across the South East project as well as number of other initiatives to help SMEs. The LoCase project provides match-funded grants of up to £10,000 to help make SMEs more energy efficient and to grow businesses in the low-carbon sector.
Kent is a fantastic, deeply supportive place for small and medium-sized businesses, and the KEiBAs are a great reflection of that. They also reflect the importance of SMEs to the UK economy as a whole. 2016's figures put the number of people they employ at 15.7 million, meaning 60% of all UK private sector employment is SME-based.
The Kent Excellence in Business Awards scheme is just one of the ways in which those contributions are being recognised and encouraged. If you're in the running this year, then we look forward to seeing you at the event on the 22nd of June. Whether or not you win this year, the KEiBAs are a celebration of the Kentish entrepreneurial spirit. More significantly, they're a proud recognition of the fact that taking care of people is as important as taking care of business.
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