Thursday 01st October 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 10/08/2020

Surge in private business activity but fears of ‘second wave’ clouds outlook

Private business activity surged in the region in July as restrictions were eased ending a fourth month decline which started with the lockdown in March. The headline NatWest East of England business activity index covering manufacturing and services rose to 56.3 in July, up from 49.1 in June and the sharpest rate of expansion since February 2018. The degree of optimism also improved and although job shedding remains sharp, it was the softest seen since March. But outstanding work at private firms in the East continued to fall in July and average input costs faced by companies in the region rose for the second month in a row. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: “Companies across the East of England saw a big boost to business activity and sales in July as more parts of the economy reopened and clients returned to work….However, the pandemic continues to pose risks to the outlook, with fears over any second waves of infection or restrictions. At the same time, employment remains a key concern, as firms continued to report lower staffing levels, as appetite for workers remains low due to signs of excess capacity and rising costs."

£32 million funding boost for new building schemes in Norfolk and Suffolk

Projects across Norfolk and Suffolk have been unveiled which are set to benefit from a £32.1m boost from the government’s getting building fund, including  major new schemes in Ipwich and Great Yarmouth. The list includes the redevelopment of the derelict Burtons building on Ipswich waterfront, the creation of an energy sector operations & maintenance campus in Great Yarmouth, a new integrated care system academy at the University of Suffolk and additional funding for New Anglia LEP’s business resilience and recovery scheme. Together, New Anglia LEP says the projects will create 1,100 new jobs, safeguard more than 2,900 jobs, unlock a further £85m of private and public sector investment, assist more than 500 new learners and deliver more than 1,000 new superfast broadband connections. Doug Field, chair of New Anglia LEP, said: “These projects will help us deliver on our ambitions to be a fantastic place to live, work and learn. From providing new community facilities and training centres to redeveloping our town centres and supporting our key sectors, the projects will accelerate local growth and support our economic recovery.”

The schemes also include the redevelopment of Cornhill in Bury; micro generation and storage of electricity on car parks in Babergh and Mid Suffolk; extending full fibre broadband in Suffolk; the East Suffolk Market Towns project; the Great Yarmouth seafront regeneration; development of the Food Innovation Centre, Broadland; North Walsham town centre revitalisation; extending ultra-fast broadband infrastructure in Norfolk and the Enterprise Zone accelerator fund.

Separately, a virtual business recovery festival will provide two days of free training, workshops, panel discussions and advice sessions to help Norfolk and Suffolk’s businesses restart after the lockdown. Organised by New Anglia LEP, RESTART, on 29 and 30 September, will be free for any business or organisation.

….but construction workloads slide as pandemic takes its toll on new projects

Construction and infrastructure workloads across the East of England have slipped to the lowest levels since the financial crisis according to the second quarter RICS survey of the sector. Labour shortages, some due to furlough, and problems in the materials supply pipeline also are causing projects to stall. Some 80 per cent of those surveyed pointed to projects being put on hold across the UK and only a quarter expect them to restart imminently. Some projects are also being retendered due to costs. Overall a net balance of a third of respondents saw a decline in workloads. Public housing workloads fell to their lowest level since the survey began and other public works were at the lowest level since since 2011. Infrastructure and private housing workloads also fell and a net balance of -36% expected profit margins to fall in the year ahead. Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “A weak Q2 survey was only to be expected given the impact of the pandemic on the construction sector. Slightly more ominously, forward looking indicators are also still fairly cautious, apart from the infrastructure sector which should benefit from recent government initiatives.”

Briefly…

New planning white paper a “…massive change”

The government’s Planning for the Future white paper unveiled last week represents a massive change to the planning system, according to Colchester-based property and construction consultancy Ingleton Wood. The  firm says it finds the government’s recognition of the need to boost housing supply, and importance of providing housing opportunities for first-time buyers, extremely encouraging. “We cautiously welcome the landmark proposed reforms that propose to make future changes to planning laws that aim to support a generation of first-time buyers and key workers to finally join the housing ladder, such as the First Homes scheme selling properties directly at a discount rate. We will also be working closely with our housing association and local authority clients over the coming months to understand how these proposals impact social and affordable housing,” said Nicol Perryman (right), associate and planner at Ingleton Wood, based in Colchester. The firm says it will continue to ensure that high-quality building standards are maintained for affordable housing developments, schools, GP surgeries and hospitals after increased targets to build 300,000 new homes nationally every year by the mid-2020s were also announced.

See Profile Ingleton Wood

Motorbike dealership rides out tough times with funding from Barclays

Peterborough’s largest motorbike dealership, Wheels Motorcycles, has secured £350,000 from Barclays via the government-backed coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. The finance will ensure that the business gets through a difficult time for the industry, which is seasonal and relies on summer sales for most of its annual revenue. Wheels Motorcycles employs 46 people and while the company’s workshop remained open for business during the lockdown, its retail and dealership wing and café had to close. Neil Steen (right), managing director of Wheels Motorcycles, said: “Motorcycling is seasonal so what we earn in the summer gets us through the winter. So in March, we were very busy, but then bang, everything stopped. When we realised three months’ lockdown would mean we wouldn’t be here next summer, we asked Barclays for support. My relationship director Steve Brown, said, “yes, we can lend you the money to get you through this.” And after we’d filled in some forms, the money was in my account just a few days later. This CBILS loan gives us the opportunity to survive and to be here for our customers.”

Steve Brown, Barclays relationship director, said: “I’ve worked with Neil for a number of years, and we spent time looking at financial forecasts and put together an application that would get him through the tough period. For a small business, there’s a lot of moving parts, so we helped them see the wood from the trees and now he has the funds needed to meet all essential overheads.”

See Profile Barclays

Lease completed on last unit at newly-built trading park in Ipswich

Fenn Wright has completed on a lease for kit supplier Total Football on the last remaining unit at the newly-built Nobel Trading Park in Ipswich for its client, Edison House Group. The development of six new warehouse and office units is on Wentworth Road, Ransomes Europark, and other occupiers on the estate include Edison House Group, Textron Turf Care, Debach Enterprises, John Menzies and Makro. Karen Cornforth, owner of Total Football, said: “Whilst it was a difficult decision to move away from our home of 20 years, in order to grow and expand our business, we needed larger premises.  Nobel Trading Park provides the space we need to bring all of us under one roof and our spacious showroom gives us the opportunity to showcase kits from suppliers such as Adidas, Hummel, Joma, Mitre and Puma.”

Separately, Caroline Edwards has joined Fenn Wright as country & equestrian property specialist. She has extensive knowledge of the local area and is a familiar face to many on the Essex/Suffolk borders having worked in the high-end property sector for over 25 years, most recently at Carter Jonas.

See Profile Fenn Wright

Domino Printing expands with acquisition

Cambs-based Domino Printing has acquired Lake Image Systems, a market-leading producer of automated, vision-based inspection systems, for quality control and data verification. Domino, a global leader in coding, marking and printing technologies recognises that intelligent inspection and validation has become increasingly important to its customers worldwide, in digital printing and coding and marking applications. Prior to the acquisition, Domino and Lake Image Systems have worked together for more than 20 years on projects to supply vision solutions for data verification to commercial and digital printing customers. Robert Pulford (right), CEO at Domino, said: “Our acquisition of Lake Image Systems will expand our coding and marking hardware and software portfolio and further enhance our ability to deliver high-performance, integrated coding solutions.”

Founded in 1994, Lake employs 50 people, spread between four offices, including the company hq in Tring as well as the USA, France, and Singapore.

Podcast series gives business advice in uncertain times

In MHA Larking Gowen’s new podcast series, Impromptu Business Chat, business advisory experts Mark Curtis and James Lay talk on their understanding of the guidance being offered from the government during the pandemic, offering business advice to help you through these uncertain times. Mark and James speak candidly on each subject, with humour and random references, from Pearl Jam and Usain Bolt to Lance Armstrong. Recent episodes include Ohh do the Covid Hokey Cokey!, Stress, Drugs and leadership roles, The office is dead, long live the office!, Lancing your blind spots and many more. Each episode is available on Apple Podcasts or you can listen through their website here.

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Virtual business recovery festival

A virtual business recovery festival will provide two days of free training, workshops, panel discussions and advice sessions to help Norfolk and Suffolk’s businesses restart after the lockdown. RESTART, on 29 and 30 September, will be free for any business or organisation.Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of New Anglia LEP, which is organising the event, said: "Bringing together local partners and businesses to create two days of inspiring, exciting and practical sessions  - hosted virtually and free for any business to watch – will help us to kickstart our recovery and give business owners the ideas, confidence and support they need to come back stronger.” To sign up for a free place, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/restart-festival/