Made in the North West

Posted on 12 Jan 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Deloitte’s ‘Business Leading Britain’ 2014 report revealed the North West to be the UK’s most successful region for manufacturing businesses. Oldham-based James Briggs Ltd has been one of the region’s success stories and the company’s finance director, Simon Tuley explains why the region is such a hotbed for growth.

Simon Tuley, finance director. James Briggs Ltd
Simon Tuley, finance director. James Briggs Ltd.

As a company that has been based in the North West since our inception in 1830, James Briggs Ltd has witnessed the transformation of the manufacturing industry over nearly two centuries now.

Ever since the days of the Industrial Revolution, the North West has been at the heart of manufacturing, so it’s no surprise that, according to a recent study, the North West is leading the UK’s steady growth.

Deloitte’s latest Business Leading Britain report found manufacturing to be Britain’s third largest sector – behind consumer business and professional services – making up 14.7% of the 1,000 businesses surveyed.

This is on the back of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which provided further reason for optimism in the North. Top of the agenda for manufacturing was the announcement of a £235m investment in a new national institute for advanced materials. This commitment, which highlights our standing on a national level, should further boost the industry by attracting skilled workers to an already strong talent pool.

Given the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s recent comments on the importance of STEM subjects to those entering the job market, it’s clear that Government is trying to invigorate our industry, as the world around us becomes ever-more technology-driven.

However, in the North West, we are already enjoying the benefits of an education system rich with engineering graduates. This is reflected in the Deloitte statistics, which show the North West to have the most KITs (knowledge, innovation and technologies) companies. The report describes these companies as being talent-hungry, so there is a clear correlation between the strength of our educational offering and the prospects of employment afterwards.

The region also has a heritage of innovation, so remains an attractive option for those looking to start a career on the back of a STEM-based education. The University of Manchester, which will lead Government’s plans for the new Sir Henry Royce Institute, ranks in the top ten universities for UK manufacturing, alongside Leeds and Sheffield, which we also expect to benefit from the project. This firm footing in the national rankings will only serve to benefit companies in the region going forward.

Although the future looks bright in terms of attracting future talent, one of our current concerns for the manufacturing industry as a whole is the below par level of exports. A challenging global economic climate, which is impacting exports to the Eurozone and emerging markets like China, means that international growth remains sluggish.

However, we already boast a strong internal communications infrastructure and that is serving the region well internationally. Furthermore, investment in the transport network, including One North and HS2, are likely to improve connectivity with other regions and improve our offer to international clients through better cargo links.

Bearing in mind the recent dip in an otherwise upward growth trajectory, the manufacturing industry is by no means out of the woods. One certainty, though, is that the North West will be at the heart of any future developments.