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In the economic downturn, one fact has emerged. Manufacturing is still able to fight its corner to survive. Jaguar Land Rover, which is taking on 1,000 new employees and creating an engine manufacturing plant in Wolverhampton, is a shining example. But what of lesser mortals? The government has announced plans to help SMEs through the Regional Growth Fund and other measures but there is a strong belief that the future of manufacturing companies rests with their own enterprise, initiatives and endeavour and not with political theory. CHAMBERLINK looks at the issues.

As economic crisis shows few signs of easing, a leading Birmingham industrialist is in no doubt… VAT’s the way to do it

of the Midlands and will continue to serve us well in the years to come. “Moving up the technology curve and adding value to more

conventional products through combining additional service and support is the way forward. “Birmingham Chamber, through its extensive network of connections,

provides excellent lobbying opportunities as well as providing business support services and excellent networking opportunities to help businesses to remain globally competitive.” Sadly, David Grove, a former Birmingham Chamber president, is no longer with us following his untimely death a few weeks ago. However, he had firm views on the way to success when I spoke to him about the his two companies, Hill and Smith and Grove Industries. He said: “When we carry out acquisitions to extend our product

“A dangerous situation…” George Osborne


“Toughest hour” Angela Merkel

he current crisis in the eurozone presents us with a “very, very difficult and dangerous situation”, according to Chancellor George Osborne. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, says Europe is facing its

‘The overriding current need is to instil stability and confidence in the marketplace’

“toughest hour since the second world war”. So where does that leave business in the UK? And, in even sharper

focus, where does that leave the West Midlands and Birmingham, where the fortunes of manufacturing are still the touchstones for economic success or failure? The halcyon days of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch may be light years behind us, let alone a few hundred years, and we now have to look to the legacy that may be left by 21st century pioneers in Birmingham, like Grove, Topman and Brittan. Birmingham Chamber vice-president Steve Brittan, who is also managing director of BSA Tools, is in no doubt. “The overriding current need is to instil stability and confidence in the marketplace to encourage business to invest and for consumers to spend, thereby increasing demand. The latest round of quantitative easing should help.” Steve is also looking for a reduction in VAT to help to increase

consumer spending. He points out that to stay ahead of the game manufacturing must continue to innovate and/or add value. Fortunately, he adds, an inventive and entrepreneurial attitude is a trait


range and markets, we are extremely careful with our extensive due diligence. We aim to continue growth by concentrating on the things in which we have expertise.” Simon Topman, another former Chamber president who runs Acme Whistles, says he saw a tremendous slowing when the eurozone crisis broke. “We had had a lot of inquiries that

led us to be quite optimistic about the future for us in Europe – suddenly they all went away. It was a lack of confidence.” And for the future, Simon

is concerned that sterling may increasingly be seen as a safe haven. “That would be a disaster for manufacturers. It would push our currency through the roof. “How am I going to

be competitive in America and other markets where I have been doing well, if my prices are rising by 10 or 15 per cent as a result of what is happening in Europe?”

Steve Brittan

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