Tuesday 21st November 2017
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 11/10/2017

Suffolk companies stay optimistic despite mounting skills shortages

Suffolk companies remain optimistic but skills shortages have emerged as one of the main barriers to growth for businesses, according to a survey ahead of the launch of the Suffolk Limited study of the county’s top 100 firms. It showed that 52 per cent of firms pointed to a shortage of talent available when recruiting, with junior management positions (noted by 35 per cent) proving the most difficult to fill followed by senior management and apprentice level roles. However over two thirds of the county’s businesses said that they plan to take on an apprentice over the coming year, supported through the Apprenticeship Levy. The survey from Grant Thornton and law firm Birketts showed that despite Brexit uncertainty, some 55 per cent of Suffolk firms questioned feel confident about trading conditions over the coming year, whilst 61 per cent expect to substantially invest in new equipment, property or acquisitions and a further 54 per cent plan to increase headcount. Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton’s Ipswich office, said: “Last year’s Suffolk Limited showed the county’s 100 largest firms delivered significant growth, primarily due to businesses continuing to improve their operational efficiency and taking a cautious attitude to investment. Our launch poll suggests Suffolk businesses are planning to continue this approach over the next 12 months, possibly as part of a strategy to ensure they are in the strongest position to face the challenges - and also capitalise on the opportunities – Brexit will undoubtedly present." The 2017 Suffolk Limited results will be unveiled at a breakfast briefing on 29 November at Wherstead Park, Ipswich. ....Read more

Photo:Rob Thomson of Grant Thornton (left) with Jonathan Agar of Birketts.

Jobs saved with sale of Bury-based manufacturer

The business and assets of Bury-based Stanref International, which makes pressure vessels and heat exchangers for the refrigeration and oil & gas industries, have been sold to a wholly-owned subsidiary of DAMSLE LLP, securing the immediate future of the 24 workers. The sale followed the appointment of Mark Upton (photo, right) and David Scrivener of Ensors Chartered Accountants as joint administrators of Stanref on 29 September. Stanref had been in difficulty and called in Mark Upton, business recovery and turnaround partner at Ensors, to help. He said: “Stanref had some challenging issues but from the outset our focus was on trying to secure a sale of the business as a going concern and to secure the continued employment of the long serving, skilled and loyal work force and I am delighted that with the sale to DAMSLE we have been able to achieve that.” DAMSLE LLP is a privately financed investment house specialising in supporting SMEs in East Anglia and the Home Counties, particularly with a strong reputation and potential for scale.

Adrian Howlett, partner in DAMSLE LLP, said: “Demand for air conditioning and heat exchangers is still in a growth phase. Stanref has a unique position in the supply chain which Brexit outcomes could help benefit….With some reinvigoration and focus, we expect the business can build on its reputation for quality product and start to scale up activities. If that can be achieved we can provide greater certainty and security for the workforce.”

Speculative development set to return to Norwich

Speculative warehouse development is expected to return to Norwich for the first time in a decade, according to property agents Bidwells. At the Browick Interchange south of the city, plans have been drawn up for five new units totalling 60,000 sq ft to in response to a shortage. Two of the units are in the 20-25,000 sq ft size range, which are in shortest supply. Meanwhile, a joint venture between Ifield Estates and Pigeon Investment Management has outline planning permission to provide 678,000 sq ft of space at its Broadland Gate scheme at the Postwick junction with the new Northern Distributor Road.  Six acres are under offer for the construction of a car showroom and a trade park is also proposed, in addition to 450,000 sq ft of logistics/industrial space. The city's new 20km Northern Distributor road is set to open in March, four months ahead of schedule.

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Southend Airport plans expansion

Southend Airport has applied for planning permission to extend its terminal building to improve facilities and to meet new aviation regulations. The multi-million-pound project will involve an extension to the southern end of the terminal building to house new baggage sorting and screening systems and an extension to the northern end of the terminal, improving baggage reclaim facilities. Glyn Jones, CEO of the airport's owner, Stobart Aviation, said: “This development is all about ensuring we maintain the highest levels of customer experience and ensuring we are able to comply with new regulations.” Construction is expected to start in early 2018.

Nursery invests with help from growth initiative

Suffolk-based wholesale plant supplier Howard Nurseries is expanding with a £60,000 investment helped by a £15,000 growth grant from The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. It will help pay for a new professional printer and training as the firm takes plant label printing in-house to produce bespoke labels. Based at Wortham, near Diss, Howard Nurseries counts Sandringham Flower Show among its clients and it won a gold award at the 2015 Chelsea Flower show. Mark Reeve, chairman of the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative Board said:“Horticulture is an important industry in the East of England, and we are pleased to be supporting a cutting-edge scheme that through investment will lead the way in modernising how plants are labelled in the UK, in turn generating customers, growth, jobs and preventing business losses as a result of European outsourcing."

Photo: Christine Howard, director and Marcel Willems, operations manager at Howard Nurseries

SMEs 'in denial' on costs of a cyber-attack

Three quarters of SMEs don't have a budget to deal with the aftermath of a cyber-attack and of those that have, many too IT focused and have not looked at the impact on other business areas, according to a report The Business of Cyber Recovery,by Ipswich insurer PolicyBee. A survey of five hundred SMEs showed on ly 19 per cent had put aside funds for cyber-attacks & cyber breaches and their aftermath. Sarah Adams, cyber insurance specialist at PolicyBee, said: “Cyber-attacks are not just an IT problem as they could impact sales, customer relations, reputation and a business's bottom line - especially if there are legal ramifications or regulator fines. SMEs really need to get past this mental barrier that cyber-attacks can be fixed in the server room - they can’t. It takes a whole business to plan ahead, practise for and react to a cyber issue, if you want to come through it unscathed.”...Read more

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Online fishing tackle retailer reels in profits

Anglian Direct, the Norwich-based fishing tackle and equipment retailer which recently floated its shares on the AIM junior stock market, has reported first half results showing gross profits up 35 per cent to £4.73 million and revenues up 39 per cent at £14.08 million. Online sales rose 67 per cent to £6.57 million. Executive chairman Martyn Page said: “Following our admission to AIM in July 2017, we have developed a strong pipeline of new store openings and acquisitions, and we look forward to another period of strong growth in the second half of the year.”

Windfarm launches education initiative

Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm is launching an initiative to encourage secondary school pupils across Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk and Breckland, to study STEM subjects in the sixth form or technical college The program will inject an extra £2.5million additional educational funding for the next 25 years. Emil Orderud, Dudgeon operations manager, said: "By committing to a yearly investment of £100,000 for the lifetime of the windfarm, we believe that the Dudgeon STEM Programme has the potential to make a real impact on science motivation and competence across the three districts of Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk and Breckland".