Sunday 17th December 2017
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 15/06/2017

Businesses stay confident as pace of growth slows in the region

The pace of business growth slowed in the region in May although firms continued to create new jobs and business confidence rose to its strongest level for nearly a year, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The Lloyds Bank UK regional PMI survey fell to 54.2 in May, down from 57.3 in April and below the national average although it remained above the 50 level which signals growth. Firms in the East created new jobs at a four-month high in May in the face of new orders which rose, albeit at a slower rate than in April. Business confidence in the region improved to strongest in 11 months, with planned expansions and capital investment expected to bolster demand. With the weak pound, cost inflation rose, reflecting higher raw materials costs. Steve Elsom, regional director for SME banking in the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The East of England economy continued to grow during May, but lost some of its momentum as growth slowed below the UK average as a whole for the first time in more than two years. …On a positive note, business sentiment peaked at an 11-month high and a healthy rate of employment growth continued to support the local economy.”

Skills shortages in warehouse jobs as East European workers leave

Employers are struggling to fill jobs in warehouses in the region as increasing numbers of Eastern European workers leave the country, according to recruitment firm ManpowerGroup. Simon Edwards, operations director at Manpower, said: “We are seeing a lot of job opportunities in warehouse positions, especially following Amazon’s decision to expand its fulfillment centre in Cambridge. However, it has become increasingly difficult to fill these positions. More and more Eastern European workers who previously held warehouse positions are leaving the county and we have found that there has also been an increase in the number of older, more skilled candidates, looking for work. They tend to be overqualified for the positions on offer and so this skills mismatch has meant that there are more positions available than candidates suitable for the jobs.” A Manpower survey taken since the election showed a three point decline in 'hiring optimism' to +5% in the region, in line with the national average. The recruiters said the result was “fairly encouraging” and showed firms were demonstrating cautious optimism nationally.

Weaker pound give region’s exports a lift

The value of exports by firms in East of England rose 12 per cent to £6.7 billion in the first quarter compared to last year according to HMRC figures. Exports to EU countries accounted for 51 per cent of the total value, followed by North America on 16 per cent and Asia and Oceania on 14 per cent. Machinery and transport exports accounted for 41 per cent of the total value, with chemicals at 27 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of firms exporting in the East of England rose to 13,237 from 12,565. in Q1 of 2016 to 13,237 in Q1 2017. Adrew Robinson, tax partner at RSM in Bury St Edmunds said: ‘The decrease in the value of the pound since last year’s referendum has helped exporters and these figures show that the region’s businesses have been taking full advantage.  Looking ahead, however, the outlook for exporters is less clear. …businesses will no doubt be hoping for some early clarity on the UK’s future trading relationships with Europe once the Brexit negotiations start in earnest.’

New energy £11.4 m energy skills centre in Lowestoft

East Coast College, which was recently created through the merger of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft colleges, is to build a new £11.4 million Energy Skills Centre at its St Peters St. Campus in Lowestoft. It will replace a former engineering technology building and provide added space and improved facilities to train workers for the region’s energy sector. The project has received a £10m investment from New Anglia LEP’s growth deal with government and is expected to be open by December 2018. Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said: “This new centre can be truly transformational for our all-energy coastline, for the young people who will be its future workforce and for our wider economy. It will unlock the potential of a generation, giving them the skills business tells us it needs, as our fast-growing energy sector continues to evolve, compete and win on a global stage.”

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Plans submitted for Stowmarket business park

Plans have been submitted for phase two of Stowmarket Business & Enterprise Park, known as Stowmarket EAST. It extends over 54 acres, with buildings ranging from 10 -200,000 sq ft and will provide design and build options and scope for future expansion. Outline planning permission has been formally submitted for up to 530,000 sq ft of storage and distribution, manufacturing and office space over 32 acres. Stowmarket EAST is part of the wider 195-acre Stowmarket Business Park, near jct 50 of the A14. Will Mooney, partner, Carter Jonas, said: “There is pent up demand for business space in Stowmarket and a significant lack of supply with availability rates for industrial at a 10-year low….Interest has already been strong with several pre-let enquiries from local, regional and national business across a variety of sectors. ” Carter Jonas has submitted a planning application for Building Partnerships and the landowner to Mid Suffolk DC.

Italian healthcare firm bases in Cambs

Barker Storey Matthews has let an office suite in Terek House, Eaton Socon in St Neots to Esaote Europe BV - an Italian manufacturer of high end MRI and ultrasound healthcare scanners. The Terek House suite is in the Sandpiper Court office development in Eaton Socon and will be Esaote Europe BV’s UK hq.  Separately, Barker Storey Matthews' Cambridge office has let the Bertarelli Building in Bourn, South Cambridgeshire to biotech firm Phico Therapeutics. The 14,610 sq ft building is in the Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic campus and has been let on a ten year lease.

North Norfolk-based Tidal Transit has extended the charters for its two crew transfer vessels Tia Elizabeth and Kitty Petra on the Gwynt y Môr wind farm off the coast of Wales for up to another five years. The two vessels have been operating at the wind farm for two years from its construction period through to operations and maintenance phase.

London Stansted saw a record of nearly 2.3 million passengers during May, up 7 per cent on the month last year and boosted by growth from travellers to Denmark, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Spain, Italy, Germany and Poland remain the airport’s biggest international markets.

R & D tax credit specialists, Jumpstart and Enterprise Europe Network are to host a free event at St. John’s Innovation Centre on 21st June for high-growth SMEs looking for advice in R&D, grants, IP and leveraged funding.  Introduced in 2000 only 11% of R&D tax claims come from companies based in the East of England.

Bourne-based Larkfleet Homes has appointed Adrian Green as its new head of commercial. He brings wide experience and will be developing, leading and managing all commercial activities of the business. Helen Hick, joint managing director of Larkfleet Homes, said: “The company is developing more and bigger sites in 2017, up and down the country, and the expansion of the team is testament to our growth."

Paintings competition adds colour to construction site

Local schoolchildren recently visited Barking Town Hall, where Ipswich-based Barnes Construction is working on a major refurbishment scheme, to see their entries for the 2017 Paint the Hoarding competition put on public view. The national competition is organised by the Considerate Constructor Scheme and over 60 designs were put forward from Robert Clack School in Dagenham and St Joseph’s RC School in Barking and the winning entry from each school has now been painted to form part of the perimeter fencing around the landmark site. Barnes Construction is the main contractor on the project which is being carried out over 68 weeks in two phases. Mark Bailey, divisional director for Barnes Construction, said : “We wanted to do something that would engage the local community in the project, so we decided to enter the 2017 Paint the Hoarding competition. We approached the two local schools and they were keen to get involved.”

Photo: Students from St Joseph's visiting the Barking town hall site with Mark Bailey, divisional director, Barnes Construction