Chamber members bend minister’s ear

Businesses in Bradford were able to tell a leading cabinet minister about the importance of transport connections in the District, thanks to the Chamber.

At only two days’ notice, West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce pulled in a group of businesses and found a venue to host Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and a team of civil servants, prior to him making a major announcement that could affect them.

Businesses hear from Transport Secretary in Shipley

Aerospace engineers Produmax in Shipley hosted the visit, accompanied by an entourage of media journalists and broadcasters.  Mr Grayling and local MP Philip Davies met with a dozen local businesses, including Bradford Chamber President, Nick Garthwaite, who were able to relate hurdles faced on roads, rail and air travel into and out of Bradford. Other present included Manor Coatings, Univer and Incommunities.

The purpose of the visit was to announce that £300,000 was being made available for a feasibility study on the need for a new by-pass for Shipley.  It was also revealed that Highways England will spend £500,000 on improvements to the A1 at junction 47 near Harrogate, increasing road capacity, reducing queuing and improving journey times.

Mike Cartwright of the Chamber’s policy team, who organised the event, said afterwards:

“It was all hands on deck when we got the call from DfT – Manor Coatings had also been willing to host the visit, so particular thanks to them and Produmax for stepping up at such short notice.

Produmax MD, Jeremy Ridyard (right) with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

The Department for Transport later said:

“The feasibility study could uncover evidence of the wider benefits of a new by-pass to the town; for example, by cutting congestion in the centre and moving traffic onto an alternative road.  It will also explore how a route to the east could improve air quality and remove barriers to economic growth.  If found to be viable, a relief road would provide a second crossing of the River Aire at Shipley and potentially create access to future development opportunities, including new housing.”

Any future decisions on whether a by-pass is built will depend on the outcome of the feasibility study.

 

 

Read the Government’s full announcement here.

 

Sterling volatility is major exporter concern

A national Chamber survey of 2,600 exporters has found that confidence in future operations remains strong, but external economic and political factors are having an impact.

The results show 60% of exporting manufacturers were more concerned about exchange rates in the second quarter of the year than previously. There was also increased concern among 43% of service exporters, highlighting the broad impact of the weakness of the pound.

The findings indicate that price pressures eased slightly on exporters during the second quarter, but manufacturers under pressure to raise prices say raw material costs are the main factor (81%). Service firms say raw material costs (39%) and other overheads (51%) are leading on cost pressures.  An escalating labour shortage is seriously affecting exporters, with 69% of recruiting manufacturers struggling to find staff.

Many exporters are maintaining competitiveness in foreign markets with healthy order books, but sterling’s weakness is increasing the cost of raw materials from abroad.

Key findings

  • 39% of exporting manufacturers saw orders increase in the last three months; for services, the figure was 30%
  • 35% of exporting manufacturers and 32% of exporting service firms expect the price of their goods/services to increase
  • For those manufacturing exporters under pressure to increase prices, 81% report the cost of raw materials as the leading source of pressure
  • 77% of exporting manufacturers and 67% of services firms attempted to recruit in the last three months, however, of those, 69% and 60% respectively reported difficulties finding the right staff.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“It’s been a summer of trade tensions and endless Brexit bickering, and exporters are particularly exposed to the consequences of that turmoil. Companies will always find a way to trade with each other, but messy negotiations and the threat of higher tariffs have implications, and can hit confidence and firms’ bottom lines. The UK government can’t control currency or the actions of trading partners, but it can take steps to mitigate the level of uncertainty at home.”

Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said:

“The resilience of UK exporters is highlighted with this quarter’s Trade Confidence Index. Despite a slight decline, the index remains up year-on-year and it is encouraging to see it stands at the fifth highest level on record. This strong performance also reflects what I hear from our customers and, at DHL Express, we continue to support an abundance of energetic, internationally-focussed UK entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the world.”

Chamber report highlights growth opportunities

In order for Bradford to meet the objectives in its new economic growth strategy, more land needs to be made available for employment use.  This is one of the calls to action in a new Chamber of Commerce report, out today (Wednesday 18 April 2018).

The report is available here.

Bradford Property Forum Chair, Allan Booth, of Rance Booth Smith Architects, comments below on the report.

“Bradford is making solid progress in many areas – within business and outside it.  A successful visit to the international property conference, MIPIM took place in March.  Phase Two of Broadway’s leisure development is well underway, and the backing of the company behind Birmingham’s NEC for the Odeon project is surely a vote of confidence.  Elsewhere, Barclays published survey findings in late 2017 stating that the city is the best place in the country in which to start a business.

There is also increasing pressure to bring the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail line through the city, with a city centre station, which will make a transformational difference to local fortunes.

So, good things are happening and many businesses are looking to expand – and there’s the rub.  In order to accommodate this growth, expansion and success, there needs to be sufficient land available for businesses to plan, build or grow.

Bradford’s growth strategy highlights the need to bring forward more land for development for commercial and industrial use. It sets out to increase the District’s economy by £4bn, getting 20,000 more people into work and raising the skill levels of 48,000 to NVQ3 – all by 2030.

With all this in mind, Bradford Chamber of Commerce has published a report examining the need to identify suitable sites for employment land. The purpose is to help the necessary discussions between planners, agents, developers and the Council to facilitate economic growth and appropriate development in the right places.

Bradford’s Local Plan has identified the need for an additional 135 hectares of employment land in years to come.  Despite an expanding economy and fast-growing population, there is currently less land available for development overall than there was five years ago.

While housing generally commands higher values, we believe it should not be prioritised to the detriment of employment land identification.  Other potential solutions include land swaps, whereby publicly-owned sites are ‘traded’ with privately-owned ones to help facilitate, for example, regeneration, or reduce market blockages. This could be an appropriate solution when assessing existing employment land allocations that are considered unsuitable due to topographic or infrastructure related issues.

These sites may be more appropriate for housing and might be ‘swapped’ with sites that are more appropriate for industry; for example, sites currently on flood plains or close to major transport corridors. Access to publicly under-written bridging finance (often short-term or ‘stop gap’ funding measures used to smooth property transactions) might be helpful and allow companies to move and expand without too much short term cash flow implications.

The Chamber, via its work undertaken in the Property Forum, believes that there is an urgent need to update Bradford’s Employment Land Review, last updated in 2011. Bradford Property Forum and the Chamber generally stands ready to support the Council in developing an employment land policy that will facilitate economic growth and, in turn, deliver greater prosperity and job opportunities for the citizens of the Bradford District.”

NOTES:

  1. The Chamber of Commerce report, entitled “Creating Space for Future Success: Ensuring Growth Happens in Bradford”, was put together by members of Bradford’s Property Forum. It includes examples of companies facing challenges as they seek to expand.
  2. It was sponsored by Incommunities, Johnson Mowat, Rance Booth Smith, Turley and Walker Singleton.
  3. It was written by Allan Booth, Clive Brook, Marianne McCallum, Steve McManus, Jonathan O’Connor and Mike Cartwright.

Pic Caption (L-R): Stephen Miles (Cushman & Wakefield), Jonathan O’Connor (Walker Singleton), Ben Pretty (C&W), Richard Sunderland (CBRE), Allan Booth (Rance Booth Smith)

The report is available here.

Cushman & Wakefield’s and CBRE’s presentations at Bradford Property Forum on 18/04/18 highlighted changes in current market trends in relation to property and future forecasting in how this may continue.  A separate report on this will appear in due course, with presentations made available.

MPs urged to work together for greater good

Bradford’s MPs were recently urged to work closer together for the betterment of the District.

A Chamber of Commerce lunch in the city recently heard from three of the city’s five MPs, and faced some tough questions on what they are doing to represent the city.

John Grogan (Keighley), Philip Davies (Shipley) and Naz Shah (Bradford West) heard from a business audience about the things concerning them, and what they feel are the priorities that the Parliamentarians should be focusing on.

While the MPs highlighted devolution and Northern Powerhouse as key areas to drive forward further economic success for Bradford, they were pressed on the need to work collaboratively, and to not let party politics disrupt local aspirations.

While John Grogan and Philip Davies have both spoke at previous events run by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, it was the first time for Naz Shah. All three were keen to take as many questions as possible, and only constituency surgeries later in the afternoon prevented John and Philip from meeting more business informally after the proceedings had closed. Naz stayed on to speak to guests.

Topics raised from the floor included: maintaining Bradford’s good business start-up rate; securing better transport connectivity and high-speed rail; securing jobs and investment to Keighley if the Marley waste-to-energy incinerator scheme fails; obtaining more tangible gains from the Producer City concept; and the inevitable questions surrounding Brexit and international trade.

Bradford Chamber President Nick Garthwaite, who chaired the event, said afterwards: “It was a lively, interesting and successful lunch event. They always are, and so well-worth coming along to. The MPs showed that they are keen to listen to the concerns of local businesses, while our members have always got plenty of questions for them, too. We appreciate that the House of Commons can be an un-naturally divisive place, especially in the Chamber, where opposing views come to the fore. So it’s good to know that MPs from different parties can, when required, work together for the local area.”

A recent example of the MPs working together is the campaign to bring a medical school to the city. This initiative would help train local GPs and address the current shortage. West Yorkshire currently has only one place where students can train to become doctors, and that’s Leeds.

A separate meeting between Chamber of Commerce members and government officials involved in Brexit is to take place in Leeds later this month. This is the latest in a series of Brexit-based meetings to help secure a good and relevant deal for Britain, and to ensure the concerns of business are being monitored.

The next Chamber MPs’ Lunch is in Leeds on 9 February, when Hilary Benn is expected to cover the latest on Brexit (he chairs the Committee on Exiting the EU) aswell as other current policy topics. Call 0113 247 0000/01274 206660 for more details or visit http://members.wnychamber.co.uk/WNY_Members/Events/WNY_Members/Events/Events_List.aspx?DisplayAreaOptions=No&hkey=e2a41341-e1bf-45f7-94c3-fc2c872d4044

(The event was held on Friday 12 January – before Transport for the North’s announcement to include Bradford on a new rail line as part of its plans.  Left-Right in the above photo are John Grogan, Naz Shah, Philip Davies, Suzanne Watson and Nick Garthwaite.)

“Manufacturing is alive and kicking”: Bradford President

Manufacturing is alive and kicking, says Chamber President

Bradford’s manufacturing sector is alive and kicking – that was the key message from the city’s Chamber of Commerce last night (Thursday 24 Nov).

Chamber President Nick Garthwaite, in a keynote address at the Chamber’s annual dinner, proclaimed the sector to be in a strong position to be able to help drive the city forward, adding that many local firms are “punching above their weight.” With that in mind, said the President, the city is to host its first Manufacturing Week in 2018 – a celebration of all things great and good about the sector, both present and future.

During the speech, the Chamber President had those in the room involved in manufacturing to stand, getting several to convey a short ‘elevator pitch’ on themselves and their businesses, as examples of the positive things happening in the sector. BASF, Keighley Laboratories and Mansfield Pollard were singled out for special mentions at an event attended by many key decision-makers in and beyond the city, including Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe and some of the city’s MPs. Other notable firms still highly active in the sector, said the President, include Borg Warner, Carnaud Metalbox, Seabrook and Spooner Industries. Many others were highlighted by showing their logos on a large screen.

While other key policy areas, such as Brexit, devolution and Northern Powerhouse were all touched upon, the speech was very much a reminder of the importance of manufacturing to Bradford’s future, and that it is not a relic from the past. The President reminded the audience of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s 1967 speech about changing technologies, and called for a “new white heat of manufacturing digitisation”. This, he said, would help change young people’s perceptions of the manufacturing sector, and persuade them about the positive career options on offer.

The importance of education and skills was not forgotten about either: Nick, who runs Christeyns, an international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, announced that the Chamber’s two charities to be supported during his two-year term are both literacy support groups for the under-privileged – Beanstalk (formerly Reading Matters) and Canterbury Imagine.

The other keynote speaker was Mark Gallagher, a businessman with many years’ experience in motor car racing, especially Formula 1. After-dinner laughs were provided by comedian Funmbi Omotayo.

The event was sponsored by the Business Enterprise Fund, Christeyns, Ecology Building Society and Exa Networks.

 

Post-Brexit Customs Models Discussed

Businesses from West & North Yorkshire have met with government representatives to discuss post-Brexit future customs arrangements.

The meeting, organised by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, saw attendees call for the government to avoid a prolonged transition period, as this would add to increasing levels of uncertainty facing many firms.  It was suggested that the two-year period put forward by the government was formed without adequate assessment of what was actually needed.  The purpose of the session was two-fold: for the civil servants to take soundings on two possible post-Brexit customs arrangements being considered; and for businesses to comment on the possible effects on their operations of these new models.

The meeting was held at Shulmans LLP in Leeds recently, and attended by civil servants from the Treasury and HMRC.  Shulmans’ partner Andrew Latchmore, who chairs the Chamber’s Brexit Advisory Group, facilitated the meeting with two dozen senior business people, mainly from manufacturers and engineers who import and export.

Anastassia Beliakova of British Chambers of Commerce (white jacket) and Andrew Latchmore (to Anastassia’s left) at a previous Brexit meeting

The two options put forward – described as a “streamlined arrangement” and a “new customs partnership” – are aimed at smoothing the transition for businesses, while acknowledging that both involve moving into unchartered territory.  The first involves harnessing technological solutions and sharing data, with the second being a complex system, mirroring the EU’s approach but backed by rigorous tracking to clarify origin and destination of goods; the latter method would allow tariff reimbursements or paying additional duty where differences exist between EU and UK tariff rates.  Option two assumes, at present, that the UK would enjoy no tariff barriers for EU trade – a position deemed unlikely, according to those at the meeting and other observers.  The businesses present said there was insufficient detail on either option at present, although they were keen to engage again with the civil servants.

Andrew Latchmore said afterwards:

“The Chamber meeting was the latest in a series aimed at both seeking business views about Brexit, and creating a dialogue with Westminster and Whitehall to develop the new policies needed in this area.  There is no precedent for these negotiations, nor the surrounding work.  While the two models considered are certainly challenging, the representatives at the meeting stressed that these were models for consideration but other suggestions for customs models can and should be put forward.  The strong message the civil servants took away was that the uncertainty of not knowing the post-Brexit arrangements has begun to cause difficulties for businesses now.  Once the nature of the customs regime becomes clear, businesses can plan ahead and make the best of the arrangements, whatever they are, even if they are not ideal.  A transition period will be necessary and helpful but what matters most is that an early agreement is reached as to what the arrangements will be, and the decision is promptly communicated to business.  We must not still be in a position of uncertainty 12 months from now.”

The officials present agreed to return for future meetings once more views and evidence have been gathered.

Plans for former mill brought forward

Conditioning House

Plans to redevelop one of Bradford’s most iconic buildings has taken another step forward.

Conditioning House, which stands on land between Canal Road and Forster Square Retail Park, was bought by developer, the Priestley Group, a year ago, and proposals have been submitted to Bradford Council for a residential conversion.

The former textile mill has been derelict for nigh-on 30 years.  It is Grade 2 listed, and was built in 1902.  Priestley want to create 130 one and two-bed apartments, which would be complemented with offices, a gym and cafe. The scheme is expected to take about 18 months and will cost about £8.5 million.

The site has had several owners since it became empty in the 1980s, the last being Caddick Developments.  Priestley hope to secure planning approval by December. The company has a joint venture partner for the development, Singapore-based Muniment, which provides financial investment.

Read more on the T&A website here.

Bradford South MP conducts business survey

JudithCummins

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins is seeking the views of businesses in her constituency.

The Chamber works with all the major political parties on behalf of our members and, as such, is encouraging participation from businesses in the following wards and/or postcodes:

Great Horton, Queensbury, Royds, Tong, Wibsey, and Wyke – roughly (but not exactly) equating with BD4, 6, 7, 12 & 13.

The survey asks for views on skills needs, business support, Brexit impact, devolution, crime, any expansion plans and other challenges you might be facing.

Chamber staff will meet with Judith and her team when the survey is complete to assess the results and determine what steps are necessary to boost business and job creation in Bradford South.  The survey will stay open until at least early September.

TAKE SURVEY HERE

Questions or comments?  Contact Judith’s office direct on 01274 924280 / 07917 838398 or cumminsm@parliament.uk. Or call the Chamber on 01274 230057.

New President for Bradford Chamber of Commerce

Bradford’s business community has a new leader.

Nick Garthwaite is the new president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce.  Nick, the managing director of Christeyns, was unanimously elected at the Chamber’s annual meeting today (Tuesday 18 July).   He succeeds Andy Caton, who has held the post for the last two years.

Nick has already been involved with the Chamber’s policy development and lobbying activities for several years, and says he is looking forward to supporting local firms and helping to make Bradford an even better place in which to do business.  He will now chair regular policy development meetings of the Chamber, represent the local business community at external meetings, and act as general business ambassador for the wider District.  Nick will be supported in his role by the new incoming vice-president, Suzanne Watson.  The head of Approach PR was also elected at the Chamber annual meeting.

Nick said of his appointment:

“I’m delighted to have been elected to head up Bradford Chamber for the next two years.  Andy has been a wonderful ambassador for Bradford, so I’ve got big boots to fill; but these are both exciting and challenging times for Bradford and the wider region of West & North Yorkshire, which our organisation represents, and I’m up for the job.  We’ve already carried out a scoping exercise among our key policy group to look at what we need to focus on in months and years to come; but I’m also keen on hearing from other members on what their issues are going to be in the future.”

Christeyns produces oils, soaps and detergents for the professional cleaning and laundry sector and is based on Rutland Street off Wakefield Road, in Bowling.  The Belgian-owned firm bought out Bradford-based Oils & Soaps in 1998 as part of a series of mergers and acquisitions that has put the business on the international stage.  It also has a presence in the USA, Brazil and the Middle East, and originated in Ghent, Belgium in 1946.

Suzanne added:

“We’ve been involved with the Chamber for several years now, in various ways, and so I think I’ve got a good understanding of what’s required in helping Nick in my role as Vice-President.  However, it’s still a privilege to be asked to take on a leading role in this way.  I’ve already been working with the Producer City Board on the marketing of the District and I hope to be able to expand upon that over the next two years.”

Pic Caption (L-R): Past President Andy Caton; Vice-President Suzanne Watson; New President Nick Garthwaite

Leeds manufacturers to fly the flag for UK business overseas

Three Leeds manufacturing firms – Hopkins Catering Equipment, Brandon Medical and Rakusens – have been selected export champions to fly the flag for UK business in overseas markets as part the Commonwealth First initiative which aims to highlight the depth of innovation and quality that the UK’s SMEs have to offer.

Launched by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, the export champions programme will provide access to high level networking opportunities and trade missions across the 53 Commonwealth nations.

Leeds is a major centre for manufacturing and home to extremely innovative businesses in the advanced medical technologies, food and drink, specialist equipment manufacture and engineering, manufacturing sectors.

Sandy Needham, chief executive of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The continued success of Leeds manufacturing companies in highly competitive international markets has set a great example and will be even more important as the UK seeks to develop new trading relationships post-Brexit.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said: “It’s fantastic news that Hopkins Catering, Brandon Medical and Rakusens have been selected to take part in the export champions programme. We need to encourage more firms to export in order to grow the regional economy and these are three very successful Leeds firms with strong track records in trading with Commonwealth and other countries around the world. They will make tremendous ambassadors for the city and the wider region in overseas markets.”

  • Brandon Medical is a £6 million turnover business, which manufactures operating theatre lighting, AV systems, control systems and equipment. Growth in exports – which account for nearly half of total sales – has been driven by the appointment of a network of a new distributors covering the major Asia Pacific countries including Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. The company has also added to its product range to meet the requirements of its international customers with the new Anteris operating table which was exhibited at the Arab Health trade show in Dubai.
  • Hopkins Catering Equipment specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of bespoke frying ranges for the chip shop and restaurant trade in the UK and abroad. The £5 million turnover business, based in Pudsey, is run by managing director Victoria Hopkins and currently exports to Australia, the Middle East and the United States. In 2015 the company launched a new product range aimed specifically at US market at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. Export currently accounts for 11% of turnover but, with online sales, is a growing area of the business.
  • Rakusens is a manufacturer of crackers and biscuits, originally established in 1900 to provide kosher foods aimed at the Jewish community. Kosher products remain at the core of the business but recent years have seen new markets opened up for the company’s range of flame baked products, which are extremely low in fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Business owner Andrew Simpson is aiming to build Rakusen’s into a £6 million business, with overseas sales the key driver for future growth.

The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council facilitates trade and investment throughout the 53 states of the Commonwealth and supports private sector companies and governments to promote economic activity. It works with member companies to expand their businesses and to help with new investments in any Commonwealth country.

The three year CommonwealthFirst programme was announced at the Commonwealth Business Forum, Malta 2015 and will see a group of 100 outstanding UK SMEs selected to represent the UK as Commonwealth export champions.

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, said: ‘This programme is a wonderful way of demonstrating both the ingenuity of British businesses and the huge opportunities in Commonwealth markets. We hope these companies will serve as ambassadors for other UK businesses looking to trade internationally.”