Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Saturday, March 29, 2014
The economic potential of the region’s economy is today underscored by findings showing that the combined profits of the leading 100 companies across Norfolk and Suffolk would be enough to build a stretch of motorway from Norwich to the M1.
Next week sees the publication of the new-look EDP and EADT Top 100 listing of companies in the two counties.
A round-table event to discuss the findings at the Ickworth Hotel, near Bury St Edmunds, heard how Top 100 businesses, excluding Aviva, contributed £15.2bn of revenues to the economy compared to £11bn in 2006.
Business leaders from Top 100 companies, including Norse Group, Anglia Farmers, RG Carter, and Archant, publishers of the EDP and EADT, together with sponsors PwC, Mills & Reeve, and Roche Chartered Surveyors, heard how businesses collectively outperformed the national average in terms of growth.
Yesterday’s session, the first of six to be held in the next 12 months, also considered how the looming general election was affecting the business landscape. Craig Douglas, from PwC, said key growth areas were energy, where the sector had grown by 27pc to £370m, food, drink and agriculture (up 7pc to £277m) and automotive (up 5pc).
There had also been growth in construction, and financial services, but he said there had been a 24pc reduction in turnover among businesses in the engineering and electronics sector, which he attributed to inward investment and the sale of businesses to owners outside of Norfolk and Suffolk. “One of the key things is the bottom of the list has also hovered around the £30m mark – that’s an aspirational number for businesses to reach as far as their revenue is concerned,” he said.
“Since the 1980s and 1990s the UK economy has been broadly doubling every 25 years and based on the current statistics since 2008 it is expected to double every 70 years.
“If you compare that with the long-term growth average in the UK, that’s expected to be around 1pc, compared to 2.5pc in the 1980s and 1990s. Top 100 businesses have grown by 35pc, which equates to a growth rate of 4.5pc per year, which I think is quite phenomenal about this region’s Top 100 businesses.”
He said that total profits for 2014, discounting loss makers, was £1.5bn, or around £6m a day, which he said based on the costs of dualling the A11 shows the scale of the region’s firms.
“If we were to invest that profitability at £6m per day, we would probably get about half a mile per day,” he added. “If we had been able to invest that profit we would have been able to dual a motorway from Norwich all the way through to Mansfield and connect up with the M1.”
Common issues affecting businesses included infrastructure and skills. The meeting also heard from Mark Pendlington, chairman designate of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, who said that the Lep’s strategic economic plan, which was being submitted to ministers on Monday, aimed to address these issues.
But he said despite the growth successes of the Top 100 businesses, the findings underscored how attracting government funding had the potential to unlock even greater growth.
“Our ambition for that is very exciting and very stretching; that is to say, by 2026 we will create 95,000 more high-value jobs,” he said.
“We will build 117,000 houses, and we will create 10,000 new businesses and we will also improve the productivity by 10pc per capita to the national average.
“The skill of the Lep is in leveraging public and private sector support to make sure jobs and infrastructure are put in place. Key to that is to persuade and make the case to government.”
The new look Top 100 will be available in next Wednesday’s EDP Business supplement, which features a special report on the round-table event.