Today, manufacturing accounts for around 15% of the North Easts GVA against a national figure of approximately 10% with almost 1000 businesses in County Durham engaged in the sector. This is really just a continuation of a wonderful heritage in the region which has seen us lead the field in engineering excellence and entrepreneurialism to include such names as George and Robert Stephenson and William Armstrong. Without these and many other similar inventors and business people we would not have seen the huge leaps in technology including locomotives, hydraulic cranes, hydro-electric power and the ‘safety’ (Geordie) lamp.
We could of course get misty eyed about the past, overlooking the continuation of this into a more modern world with such notable names as Jonathan Ive, a graduate of the then named Newcastle Polytechnic (Northumbria University). Jonathan who was described by Steve Jobs as his “spiritual partner” at Apple is pretty much responsible for every Apple product from the watch, through iPods and iPhones right up to the Mac range.
Of the 1000 aforementioned businesses a great number reside at the smaller end of the SME spectrum, and as such by their nature are led by entrepreneurs supplying into a diverse client base including automotive, oil & gas, food, aerospace and rail. This diversity however can be something lacking from the larger manufacturers who become reliant on a particular sector and as such (as with Oil and Gas) can see terrible effects in a downturn where an entire client base is affected.
Here at County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing (CDEMN) we recognise the need to support local businesses in diversification and are constantly looking for opportunities in which to engage our companies in exciting new developments which culture sustainability and where possible growth across the sector. We add this to a huge range of support needed to help with the typical hurdles that people encounter whilst trying to get on with the day to day running of a business.
Like Mr (s) Stephenson and Armstrong, today's businesses are also set up on the basis of a desire or a dream, its our job to help people achieve this and find ways to overcome the obstacles that get in the way. One of the most significant ways we do this is through our work with Business Durham in identifying common needs in the region and finding a path through to support the business. There is no reason for anyone to feel isolated or unsupported as there is a tremendous network available to provide advice and a whole host of professional services. We work together to find relevant support for the sector and then proactively provide this straight to the companies door, albeit of course we encourage direct contact with Business Durham and CDEMN where a business needs help.
Working with Business Durham we are striving to identify as much information as possible on the size and type of businesses working within the engineering and manufacturing sector, who complete that 1000 strong cohort. This will then help us to build a picture of the area, the type of work undertaken, supply chain opportunities and tangible routes for business growth, therefore how best we can support the sector together.
One of the ways we are currently doing this is by our collaboration in regards to a new aspect of CDEMNs flagship exhibition ‘Oktoberfest’ on the 19th October. Now in its 10th year and the only true SME engineering and manufacturing show in the North East. In 2016 a potential was identified to support new or developing businesses by helping them to exhibit, in providing training, materials and financial support which Business Durham (an Oktoberfest Gold Sponsor) through their DBOP (Durham Business Opportunities Programme) could in part finance. This ‘Incubator Zone’ will bring some great new businesses to the event and expose them to opportunities previously unavailable, providing a springboard for growth.
This adds to the hugely successful North East Maintenance Forum which is part of Sunderland Universities AMAP (Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practise), bringing together professionals from across some of the regions largest manufacturers into one room. This forms the focus of the mornings seminars and sees the forum return after a number of years working with CDEMN and Oktoberfest.
The show this year also has a strong focus on Rail which brings a new dynamic, exhibitors and visitors. In the afternoon there will be a series of seminars arranged by the Rail Alliance on the theme of ‘Getting on Board with Rail’. This will provide attendees with the ability to learn of real opportunities in the sector and how to maximise their chance of success on tapping into the huge amount of work available in the North East.
In short, County Durham is a great place to do business. The opportunities available and support that comes with this are second to none and only a phone call or email away.