East Midlands: still a great place to do business

Over the last 12 months, we have continued to see the East Midlands outperform the economic predictions and be the home of progressive businesses, writes Keith Ross, head of mid corporate, East Midlands at Barclays.

Of course, there remains uncertainty in the region – as there does nationally. Brexit negotiations remain on the horizon, with it will come both challenges and as importantly, opportunities. The devaluation of Sterling has been good news for manufacturers looking to continue to grow and develop their export strategies. Indeed, recent figures from HMRC have revealed that the value of exported goods by companies in the East Midlands rose by 15 per cent in the first three months of 2017 versus the same period last year.

The East Midlands manufacturing sector benefits from being particularly diverse while, at the same time, having a number of large players who create significant opportunity through their respective supply chains. Announcements in further investments by some of the largest entities should serve us well and continue to help the surrounding communities to prosper while encouraging economic investment throughout the regional ecosystem.

The retail sector, however, continues to experience increasing costs as rising inflation starts to hit the sector, again largely predicated on devaluation of sterling. To try and mitigate this we have seem many of our clients look to reduce costs more broadly, by assessing logistical costs as well as looking at other non-direct costs such as power.

There is no doubt that the East Midlands is one of the most entrepreneurial parts of the UK. The top performing businesses in the East Midlands’ grew profits by an average 29% per year over the last three years, according to the initial findings of Grant Thornton’s annual East Midlands Top 20 Report.

Investment in infrastructure is playing a huge part. Derby is benefiting from increased city investment from intu after it revealed plans to redevelop the city’s Eagle Market site.

In Leicester, the Sowden Group is building a new 115,000 sq ft office building on the site of the former New Walk Centre, while at the same time announcing a 300-flat residential scheme on Vaughan Way.

Nottingham will, it seems, finally get its long-awaited Broadmarsh shopping centre, along with the demolition of the adjoining car park.

In Lincoln, Standard Life Investments is set to pump £150m into retail, leisure and living complex on the site of the St Marks shopping centre.

And in Northampton, the new University Campus is coming out of the ground at the huge Waterside development, and while the Midlands Engine remains an intriguing prospect that, if it can fully work its way into the consciousness of business owners in the East Midlands, should be a catalyst for long-term growth by stimulating further investment.

Add to this an increasing appetite from businesses to take on debt over the last 12 months, and what we’re seeing is a marked upturn in investment across the entire East Midlands economy with firms expanding into new markets as well as reinvesting to support their core activities. They should provide sustainability the cornerstone of any successful economy.

So, despite the uncertainty at a national level, the East Midlands continues to buck the trend. As we head through the Brexit negotiations, there will undoubtedly be many twists and turns, but one thing is for certain, the East Midlands is still a great place to do business.