Opinion: Improving prospects for manufacturers

Will Campbell, partner in the Blackburn office of accountants and business advisors Beever and Struthers, backs research showing improving prospects for manufacturers in Lancashire and the North West.

Will Campbell Beever StruthersAs the Chancellor strives to provide the UK with a more robust economic recovery by moving away from an over-reliance on consumer spending and the resurgent housing market towards an investment and export-driven revival, positive messages have started to emerge for growth in manufacturing in Lancashire and the North West.

But this ‘good news’ for UK plc can’t detract from the underlying fact that the performance and prospects of manufacturing in Lancashire and the wider region continue to be patchy and inconsistent.

While some businesses perform strongly by innovating and diversifying into new products and domestic and export markets, for others survival is the name of the game.

The performance of the sector is hugely important because it a priority for the North West economy and a significant driver of growth for the region, worth an estimated £20bn and accounting for in excess of 400,000 jobs.

Manufacturing is highly capital intensive and reliant on a skilled workforce – something with which we are blessed in the North West. Confidence in the ability of the sector to perform is essential to ongoing investment in people, facilities and technology via research and development.

About 20 per cent of the funding to date from the North West Fund has been into businesses with a manufacturing element, which not only supports those specific businesses but the crucial supply chain that feeds them.

Manufacturers continue to face increasing competition from abroad, challenges in accessing skills and training and the perennial problem of funding issues including access to finance, managing cashflow and significant capital investment requirements.

Lancashire and The North West is responding to these challenges. In key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, chemicals, automotive, pharmaceuticals, materials there are world-class businesses which are profitable, innovative and internationally competitive. The success of these high growth achievers is reflected by ongoing inward investment in manufacturing, which over the decade of 2003-2013 saw the North West exceed the UK average.