After nearly 18 months of the most difficult period for the local economy that any of us can remember, things seem to be turning around very fast. We have become used to store closures, with Debenhams and John Lewis sadly leaving the town not because of any Ashford-related issues but because of national circumstances.
At the same time we know that many of our village pubs are struggling for survival, and small shops and cafes have been having a terrible time. Many of them are open again, but life has been tough.
Despite all this I am struck by the number of businesses I speak to who say that orders are coming in at a rate they can barely keep up with. Perhaps because we have all had so little to do with our disposable income over the past year, there is demand as never before.
Of course, as every economist will tell you, nothing is ever completely good or bad with the economy. One of the main side effects of the sudden surge of strong growth since lockdown ended is a widespread shortage of staff.
I was struck on a recent call with the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership that companies from construction to horticulture had the same message: they simply cannot find new staff. It makes me wonder why the furlough scheme is being retained until the end of September.
Equally vivid is the effect on house prices. According to Lloyds Bank, the average house price in Ashford has risen by an eye-watering 23% in the past year, to £370,000. The average deposit paid was more than £107,000, up 62% from the year before.
I suspect this kind of increase is not sustainable or desirable, and indeed the Chancellor is withdrawing some of the stamp duty reductions that have been in force. But the overall message is clear. We are now in a completely different phase for our local businesses.