What does 2013 hold? Why not ask the experts? [Northern Echo (England)]
(Northern Echo (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Business Editor Andy Richardson and Deputy Business Editor Lauren Pyrah asked North-East business leaders to predict what will be the biggest challenges facing their industries in 2013
George Rafferty, chief executive of NOF Energy, said: "The Government's Energy Bill will provide a springboard for the supply chain in 2013 as they benefit from increased stability across the sectors.
I am in no doubt that oil and gas will dominate UK supply chain activities in the coming year and beyond in British waters as well as in established and emerging markets around the world. I also think we will start to see an injection of activity in the offshore renewables sector, stimulated by the Energy Bill, which will bring a fresh impetus for the region's companies that have laid the foundations for cohesive and effective supply chain operations. I would urge companies to focus on their business development activities in 2013 to ensure that they can play an increasingly important role in the growth of these sectors, which will have a positive impact on their businesses and the wider economy."
Paul Cave is managing director of offshore recruitment specialists Seatechs, which supplies staff to the offshore oil and gas, telecom and renewable energy industries.
"There's an incredible amount going on within this industry, particularly the growth of offshore wind farms.
"The offshore industries are very busy now and will be for the foreseeable future. There are large projects in the oil and gas sector planned for the Asia Pacific region, Brazil and Middle East, which we hope to be involved with, as well as various projects planned globally in the submarine telecoms cable and submarine power cable sectors.
"Offshore wind farms are being planned for installation from now right through until 2020 right across Europe, with some huge projects estimated to take more than five years in the construction stage alone.
"Our hope for 2013 is for Seatechs to remain a leading supplier of personnel to these markets, specialising on the subsea construction phases of the projects."
Alex Dawson, chairman of Energi Coast and chief executive of TAG Energy Solutions: "I would hope that 2013 witnesses a marked change in the sector towards a greater percentage of UK content in upcoming offshore wind developments and projects being brought forward rather than slipping back.
"The Government's Energy Bill will go some way towards creating stability in the sector by demonstrating commitment and support for offshore wind, which will give confidence and attract operators to invest in projects in UK waters and encourage the development of UK manufacturing by placing contracts with UK companies.
"This should lead to operators and their contractors taking advantage of the experienced and skilled North-East England supply chain on projects on our doorstep.
Already, North-East companies, in particular those in the subsea, installation and cable manufacturing sectors, are effectively serving the early offshore wind projects and have proven the reputation and capabilities of the region, which needs to spread to other areas of the supply chain.
"As the pace increases on projects to enable offshore wind to become a viable element of the UK's energy mix, North-East England's supply chain must be utilised for the benefit of the sector, the UK manufacturing industry and our economy."
Steve Grant, Managing Director of Middlesbroughbased TTE Technical Training Group, said: "Employers in industry should use 2013 as the year they make apprenticeships a priority to address future skills challenges. The return of steelmaking to Teesside, our established and strong chemical industry and the awarding of contracts like Cleveland Bridge's Forth Bridge project all demonstrate there is a continuing need for skilled technicians.
"In addition to these immediate needs, companies have to look to the long term. The stability that the Government's Energy Bill should bring to the sector will have a trickledown effect throughout the supply chain creating opportunities for North-East companies.
This region is highlyrespected in the global energy industry, particularly for the skills of its workforce.
However, plans have to be put in place now, including investing in apprenticeships, to ensure we have a workforce that can meet the future requirements of these sectors."
Alan Roberts, boss of C & A Pumps & Engineering in Hartlepool.
"We live and work in uncertain times. But for the most part, as I look to the year ahead of us, I am extremely excited. Our engineering business has never been more ready to go and I see growth and recruitment as the main challenges to maintain the momentum that we have created in a very short time and I will require experience and new apprentices to achieve the correct balance to ensure our future success.
"A great indication to me is that when the house builders are opening new sites throughout the North-East that people are more secure in their employment and that this reflects the economy is on the up."
James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive, said: "IT is vital that we carry the economic momentum we have established this year into 2013.
Employment is up, exports are up, positivity is at its highest since the recession started in 2008 and more firms are expanding than at any time over the past four years.
Perhaps our greatest source of pride and celebration in 2011 will provide even more success in 2012.
"As a region we have dominated export in the UKand have seen a record level of international trade throughout the year, exporting well over [pounds]14bn in goods.
"It is now vitally important that we continue to grow export levels in 2013 in order to return the North-East to a stable level of economic growth and prove to the Chancellor that his ambitious export targets can be met. . . . and with a little more investment in our infrastructure we could be doing even more.
"Growth and positivity across the private sector will be helped considerably by the continued success of global giants like Nissan, the arrival of Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe and the expansion of Offshore Group Newcastle, all of which will not only provide a boost for regional employment, but also help strength the regional supply chain for these firms.
"As we enter another crucial year for our region I hope we can look back on the real positives of the past 12 months and aim to create even more success stories for the year ahead."
Vikki Jackson-Smith, managing director of waste management business J&B Recycling. "It has been a difficult year for the waste management sector because there has been so much fluctuation in the price of the recycled products we sell on to the re-processors. I expect that will continue in 2013 so it is up to operators to ensure they can supply the best quality products to the market.
"We have exciting plans for 2013 including the expansion of our operation in Hartlepool and have worked very hard this year to improve our procedures and introduce efficiencies that have a significant impact on the business. Hard work and investment in fantastic staff is what makes the business grow and that will continue in 2013."
David Dodd, Darlington Building Society chief executive, said: "We need more confidence in the housing market.
Much of this is down to a state of mind rather than reality as there is an abundance of positive economic announcements such as Cleveland Bridge in Darlington winning a significant contract to help build the new Forth Road Bridge. My hope is such good news will start to help boost market confidence in 2013.
"There also needs to be more investment in the construction sector. I would like to see financial support go directly to house builders rather than be allocated through third parties such as the banking sector."
Business Angel Jeremy Middleton, owner of Middleton Enterprises and a North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership Board member, said:
"It is a great time to invest with the annual capital allowance being increased from [pounds]25,000 to [pounds]250,000 for two years.
"There now is greater clarity on energy policy and I hope that this will lead to the further development of the renewables sector.
"In addition, finance is still available from sources such as the JEREMIE (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises) fund and venture capital funds. The economy is improving and the private sector is growing - what we now need is for the North-East business community to have the courage to seize the available opportunities."
Christopher Todd, partner and head of commercial property at Archers Law LLP, based in Stockton. "The legal market has seen significant changes over the past year following the introduction of the Legal Services Act, which has allowed non lawyer owners to set up business structures to deliver legal services. These changes have already seen numerous new entrants to the market, delivering legal services both on the high street and via online platforms. These changes have significantly increased competition within what was already considered to be a tight market place as well as contributing to a continual movement towards fixed fee and bundled services. The changes will continue to shape the pricing and the structure of service delivery.
"With the Jackson review (on civil litigation costs) due to be implemented in April 2013, significant changes will be made within the personal injury market and will result in a major shift in the way personal injury and compensation awards are managed.
"We believe that as a trusted firm with longstanding roots in the local area and a tradition for providing high quality legal advice we are well placed to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace."
David Nicholson, managing director of Nicholson's Transport.
"I would like to see more collaboration between businesses in the North-East.
We all need to help each other grow.
"It's not about working harder, it's about working smarter. It's no good trying to be all things to all men. A leading businessman Steven Bell advised me not so long ago to concentrate on what you know and be the best at it.
That's very good advice.
"I also hope that more companies recognise what great service is all about, it's not about being cheap, it's about relationship, value and how we can add that value to help each other. At Nicholson's we continually ask our teams what does great service look and feel like
Then make sure we deliver it.
"It's a big hope but will the Government realise that excessive taxes on fuel is a road to nowhere.We need a reduction in fuel tax, not a stay of execution to stimulate the industry and help create employment.
"Finally, I hope that the North-East continues to lead the way in encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, with organisations such as the Entrepreneurs' Forum and highlight our success stories such as theWillon Group, Nifco and Nissan."
Colin Herron, managing director, Zero Carbon Futures, said: "Our region is home to the largest automotive industry in the UK. As the industry undergoes one of the biggest transformations of its time, the move from conventional to electric engines, it is no surprise that we are at the heart of this change. 2013 will be the year that the production of the world's most advanced electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf will begin in the North-East and this is the year the region will make the most of this opportunity and become recognised as a worldleader in this new and emerging technology."
Mark Rycraft, manager of Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, in Hartlepool.
"We have seen a healthy flow of customers through the centre over the year. But in general, times will remain tough for the retail sector as a whole, not just Middleton Grange.
"Retailers in general are more aware than they were say, four years ago and are looking to engage far more with their customers, that's why we are seeing so many retailers now speaking with their customers online via social media.
Online buying has risen dramatically but you can't beat the good old shopping experience where we interact with the goods we are looking to buy over the counter."
Debbie Anderson, manager of The Cleveland Centre, Middlesbrough.
"Our hopes for 2013 are to carry on exactly as we have been doing in 2012 when we experienced significant increase in footfall of an average 32,000 people per month.
"We have noticed that retail has picked up this year and long may that continue. That's particularly been the case over the past few weeks, everybody is reporting good trade and that is very encouraging for the retail sector."
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