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Where better to be in business than Cambridgeshire Ltd 2015

With an increase across the board (turnover, profit, people, assets), the stage was set for a positive dissemination of data from Grant Thornton at their annual Cambridgeshire Limited event hosted this morning at Granta Park.

Paul Brown and David Newstead shared insights into the county’s business performance and those interested can download the full report from www.grantthornton.co.uk/CambridgeshireLtd

The panel was made up of Nicholas Bewes (NB), Managing Director, Howard Venture Limited; Christopher Walkinshaw (CW), Group Corporate Communications Director, Marshall (Holdings) Ltd and Neil Darwin (ND), CEO, Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough; hosted by Paul Naylor (PN), Partner, Grant Thornton.

In an obvious attempt not to repeat the report, this post focusses on the panel discussion supported by the report data points.

Report Highlights

“There are few, if any [other regions], that can match the acceleration of profit growth by Cambridgeshire and this is testament to the quality of businesses we have in our county” PN

  • Accelerated quality earnings up 31% at £10.1bn
  • Continued turnover growth up 6%
  • Further investment in people and assets – employment up 3%, average pay up by 5%, 1,393 more people
  • Strengthening liquidity position

Cambridgeshire Ltd flourishes with a county wide mix of businesses

It comes as no surprise that technology companies top the list for turnover representing 25% of the share, the highest EBITDA margin (mainly down to ARM plc) and are the top employer by sector. But Cambridgeshire Ltd is much more than technology alone. CW discussed how the region is always moving and how important it is for all business to have a good mix of industries and how this is a key element to sustain a thriving economy. The report and the Top 100 showed strong diversity of businesses around the county.

ND highlighted that the spread of growth was across the county and not restricted to Cambridge and the city (Peterborough 25, Wisbech 13, Ely 9, Huntingdon 7, St Ives 5, Cambridge 41) – it will be interesting to see if any of the ‘One’s to watch’ help to expand this further across the county in the coming years.

With 4 large corporates leading the field and 32 SME businesses, ND also raised the question as to whether we are doing enough to support, grow and retain the medium sized businesses (MSB). Representing the majority with 64 companies this MSB space had the lowest turnover increase at 4% and their sustainable growth is obviously critical to the future success of Cambridgeshire.

Skills and investing in our future workforce

The inevitable discussion around infrastructure and housing did rear its head in the panel discussion but kudos was given by all panellists for the work Cambridge Ahead is doing on the Case for Cambridge. So instead this morning’s panellists talked predominantly about issue of skills. Despite a known skills problem Cambridgeshire keeps delivering growth, and ND carefully suggested that with salaries in some places increasing 8% are we likely to soon saturate the workforce and start going backwards? The link between business and education is critical and we all need to help younger people make choices to put them in the local workplace (here’s one way every business could help – work placements), as well as coordinated call for improved funding for our schools.

A unified voice

Any business lost to Cambridgeshire is potentially a loss to UK plc and we need to work together as a business community to develop a cohesive message to government on this. ND highlighted how we often have different answers to the same question and that coherence of the business voice (and power) needs to be coordinated whilst still being respectful of the community voice. Ultimately investment in our region has the possibility of creating a ‘bigger bang for the investment buck’ and business getting behind the Case for Cambridge will make this an easier discussion to have. As NB finished the panel, he suggested that if 25 of the biggest global technology, research and pharmaceutical companies are here in Cambridge, haven’t they already got the answer for us?