Tourism and the energy sector will play a pivotal role in boosting Waveney’s economic fortunes next year.

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Olympic success for Waveney firm

A Lowestoft-based sports equipment company vowed to strengthen its global presence earlier this month after heralding a “fantastic year” boosted by its role in the Olympic Games.

Harrod UK’s was awarded the lucrative contract of being the single supplier for football and hockey equipment to the London 2012 tournament, which it claims has helped increase its market share by 7pc.

The move paved the way for the company to explore new export opportunities, including the chance to supply equipment to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Les Saunders, sales and marketing manager of Harrod UK said the company had recorded a turnover of £12m this year.

He said: “It has been a fantastic year for ‘made in Britain’ as UK manufacturers were able to be directly involved in the Olympic Games.

“For our export business, and in the worldwide market place, we have already had enquiries for the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

“Competition is tough in the UK market place, but the fact that we can keep shifting our goal posts is quite an achievement.

“Now we want to make our export market more robust. The Olympic Games has opened up lots of markets to us, and we have had interest from all over the world. This is a success story, but we need to turn that into business and our aim is to access markets in the Middle East, Australia and mainland Europe.”

The equipment Harrod UK provided to the 2012 Olympic Games included goals, nets and shelters for football, hockey, paralympic football and wheelchair rugby. It comes after the company, which employs 130 staff, supplied equipment for the Euro 2012 football championships, and the equipment for the St George’s Park National Football Centre, opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this year.

Harrod UK was first founded by Ron Harrod in 1954, when he used skills from the local fishing industry to convert herring nets into garden netting.

The company has been based at the south Lowestoft industrial estate for 31 years.

Although concerns continue to mount over the sluggish economic climate, it is hoped the centenary celebrations of composer Benjamin Britten will help ensnare new visitors to Lowestoft and Southwold – and add another dimension to the district’s tourism offering.

Meanwhile, the emergence of two heavyweight energy projects at the tail end of this year have fuelled fresh hopes that businesses in Waveney can benefit from more supply chain work in nuclear and renewable energy.

An announcement in mid-December revealed that the East Anglia ONE windfarm project could bring a £500m boost to the local economy.

Operators Vattenfall and ScottishPower Renewables will begin sourcing the supply chain in the new year as they gear up to start constructing 325 offshore wind turbines in the North Sea by 2018, if granted planning approval.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, businesses have also been urged to sign up to a supply chain of work for the construction of the new Sizewell C power station after EDF revealed proposed plans for the new site in November.

It is hoped businesses in Waveney and across Norfolk and Suffolk can mirror enterprises in Somerset which have already seized £25m in trade from the soon-to-be-built Hinkley Point nuclear power station.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said that businesses in the district will need to seize the energy-sector opportunities in the new year to help the district prosper.

He said: “I think the energy sector does provide a significant opportunity for Waveney because of our location and because we have a good skills base and the supply chain built up over many years.

“We are in the right place to take advantage of these opportunities, but nothing in life falls on your lap. We need to make sure we get the policies right in the Energy Bill and we need to get the planning right for offshore and onshore wind.”

He added: “We are trying to add value and assemble the manufac-turers. We need to make sure local people are the ones doing these jobs.”

The bright economic forecast comes after the Waveney Tourism Forum reported a good year for businesses in the district despite a deluge of wet weather over the summer.

But the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee proved a damp squib when it came to boosting the area’s economy, according to one tourism chief.

Bernard Reader, chairman of Waveney Tourism Forum, said: “Despite difficult times and bad weather the tourism industry in Waveney has continued to prosper.

“Fortunately here on the coast we had better weather during the summer holidays than most of England which helped to bring people to Waveney.

“The Olympics and jubilee had no real impact on the industry however they did create a really good atmosphere which visitors were able to enjoy.

“While the economic climate is a concern, the Waveney Tourism Forum will continue to work in partnership with Waveney District Council to attract new visitors to the area and develop our tourism economy.

“The 2013 marketing campaign will be launched in January and will include a destination guide and improved website. 2013 is also a celebration of 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten and brings an opportunity to attract new visitors – which is all very encouraging.”

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