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The firms from Norfolk and Suffolk which are inspiring a nation

06:30 24 February 2016

Edwards and Blake is targeting 15 new contracts in 2016. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Edwards and Blake is targeting 15 new contracts in 2016. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Archant

Ambitious businesses from our region have been named among the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain, recognising the country’s fastest-growing firms. Business editor MARK SHIELDS reports.

These are the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain, and they include within their number 90 from the East of England and more than 20 from Norfolk and Suffolk.

They are named in a report compiled by the London Stock Exchange Group. Using data from DueDil, it identified the fastest-growing private companies with revenues of between £6m and £250m, calculating their average annual turnover growth rate, and highlighting those which are significantly outperforming their sector.

Nikhil Rathi, chief executive of London Stock Exchange plc, said the 1,000 companies were growing at an average rate of 50pc a year.

“Shining a light on the East of England, there are an impressive 90 companies represented from the region with an average turnover growth of 33pc,” he said.

Bateman Groundworks

At Great Yarmouth-based Bateman Groundworks, inclusion in the list for the second year coincided with winning four new contracts worth £14m for housebuilding developments across Norfolk.

The company, which provides groundworks and civil engineering for blue chip house builders, has seen 30pc year-on-year growth for the last three years, with turnover reaching £17.5m last year, and another 30pc growth predicted this year.

Managing director Richard Bateman, who set up the company 19 years ago with just a desk and a phone, said: “We started the year working on 11 projects and will end this year with 18 or 19. There is a desperate need for new housing at the moment.”

The firm wants to recruit another 40 staff by June, taking its workforce to 220, and also aims to take on 20-25 apprentices a year.

The latest accounts, to December 2014, show a pre-tax profit of £651,000 on turnover of £13.69m.

“These companies come from a diverse range of sectors and geographies, from Maldon Crystal Salt Company in Essex to software solutions provider 1Spatial, headquartered in Cambridge.”

In the report, George Osborne wrote: “UK high-growth businesses are leading the charge in rebuilding our economy. These companies are the backbone of the British economy.

“They create high-quality, well paid jobs, innovate and drive economic growth.”

Edwards and Blake (food and drink, Swaffham)

Growth has become a habit at catering specialists Edwards and Blake – but it may not have been possible without an inadvertent helping hand from a certain TV chef.

When Jamie Oliver embarked on his crusade to improve the standard of school dinners 10 years ago, he not only improved the standard of food for children, but opened up opportunities for quality catering.

Today the 19-year-old Swaffham-based company employs more than 600 people and serves thousands of people in work and education across the country, with schools and colleges among the company’s biggest growth areas.

“Jamie Oliver waving his flag had a huge impact on us,” said Shirley Edwards, who co-founded the company with Caroline Blake.

“When we had the turkey twizzlers issue a lot of the competition serving that food were hit hard, but he was effectively marketing us because we were always doing fresh food.”

That growth has continued steadily, with turnover hitting £14.7m last year, and expected to grow by 15pc this year. That means another 60 to 70 jobs at the company.

It reflects a trend in the list at large, which has seen an increase of 17pc in food and drink companies – a sign, its authors say, of increased consumer spending.

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