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James Hunter of Mills & Reeve: A strong Top 100 list – but we need to attract new businesses to the region

PUBLISHED: 17:55 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 19:09 23 May 2017

James Hunter, head of Norwich office at Mills & Reeve. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY.

James Hunter, head of Norwich office at Mills & Reeve. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY.

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The Top 100 list shows the stability in the region – but the next step must be to attract major players to move to Norfolk and Suffolk, writes James Hunter of Mills & Reeve.

We are delighted to see that CVS has risen nine places in the list – a worthy winner of our Accelerator Award at the EDP Business Awards last year as the group continues to embody everything we look for in the award category.

From a regional perspective it is reassuring to see stability at the top – large and successful organisations like Aviva are reporting healthy turnover and profits and, of course, they provide employment and business for thousands in the region. Some key growth has come from acquisition, such as Cranswick’s purchase of Crown Chicken.

MORE: Browse the Top 100 list

It would be good to see more new entrants in the list overall. We need to attract new businesses to the region, especially larger scale or high-growth organisations, to compete with the likes of Milton Keynes, Cambridge and the Thames Valley.

From conversations we have with clients and contacts the connectivity and digital infrastructure issues in Norfolk are concerns for business. It is harder to work flexibly if there is patchy coverage and working on the train or from home is a major issue which we need to tackle.

On the positive side the roads have improved, rail times are better and our cultural environment and lifestyle is very appealing to those looking for employment or to invest here.

It would be great to see some real positive impact in the top half of the Top 100, perhaps by the relocation of a big business to this region or an acquisition which brings an HQ here – I don’t think we are far off achieving this and our region certainly ticks many of the boxes.

In an increasingly global and competitive marketplace, we must sell ourselves as an attractive proposition nationally and internationally – much of our own work is now coming from abroad.

ANALYSIS: The construction and property sector is building for the region’s future

ANALYSIS: Three things we have learned from the Top 100 2017

Our region has a great deal to offer in terms of technology, creativity and innovation – the Norwich Research Park is a perfect example of this and buildings such as the Quadram Institute, a new multimillion pound food and health research centre due to open in 2018, will be one of Europe’s largest single-site concentrations of research in food, health and environmental sciences. We should shout about that success.

What are we expecting for the rest of the year? I would say steady progress. Possibly we will see a summer slow-down in corporate activity, with decision making paused until the outcome of the election is known, but we are confident that businesses are getting to grips with Brexit and planning to make the most of the opportunities.

James Hunter is head of the Norwich office for Mills & Reeve.

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