Business review of the year 2014 - Do you agree with our business leaders’ verdict of the year

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales and chief operating officer Aslam Farikullah

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales and chief operating officer Aslam Farikullah - Credit: Archant

• Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said it had been a year of delivery for the body whose goal is to boost private-sector led growth in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In April the LEP launched its strategic economic plan which, the blueprint for growth in Norfolk and Suffolk over the next decade, which seeks to create 94,000 new jobs, 10,000 new businesses, 17,000 new homes.

And the LEP's decision to prioritise broadband access had also paid dividends after it was the only one in the country to secure funds - around £10m - to speed up the roll out superfast broadband to 95pc of homes by 2017.

Mr Starkie said: 'For the first time since the Lep's formation we were saying this is what the area would like to see in the next decade. To support that the government announced our growth deal in April which will enable around £300m of public/private sector investment between now and 2021. For us the growth deal is a big thing and the benefits to the area will start to be felt from April 2015, when the money lands in our bank account.

Meanwhile its Growing Business Fund had supported 85 firms through the award of £8m of grants helping to create just over 1,000 jobs as well as leveraging almost £50 of private sector investment.


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And its small grant scheme had awarded more than £1m in grants to 63 businesses creating 200 jobs and attracting £6.4m of private sector investment.

He added: 'For us 2014 was a year of delivery, whether it was investment to unlock the potential of the Barton Mills Roundabout to support for Xenos Cars. In the Enterprise Zone, Beacon Park in Gorleston has been a hive of activity in the past year.'

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AI think 2014 was a particularly good year for business, in general terms most businesses performed well, and where there have been job losses they have been quite specific to the company rather than a general downturn. There is no doubt we have seen some clear growth and a dramatic fall in unemployment figures.'

But he said the growth levels for 2014 may not be sustained in the coming year.

'There are issues around access to labour particularly in the construction industry, energy sector, and creative industries, so there are some challenges around getting high calibre staff which could constrain growth.'

• James Hunter, partner Mills & Reeve, said overall it had been a good year for business, though there had been a 'bothersome flow' of bad news around executive pay and the ongoing fines paid by the banks.

'That is damaging to the overall reputation of business and we should all be concerned about that,' he said. 'It was very interesting however to see that, despite the absence of a vote for businesses, the views of businesses were crucial in the Scottish referendum debate.

'Next year the general election will dampen some activity and I am nervous about the impact of a damaging debate about EU withdrawal and even more separation of powers within the UK. I do not think they do business any good.

'Locally it has been interesting to see Aviva back on the acquisition trail, and obviously there have been some big changes at Archant (publishers of the EDP) with a new chairman, CEO and structure.

'The professional services sector remains strong in the region. It has also been very pleasing to see the Centrum open at the Norwich Research Park (NRP) and I think the NRP remains a bright prospect for the city and region.

'I also think the outstanding rankings and results of UEA ought to be recognised and harnessed by business.'

• Caroline Williams, chief executive, Norfolk Chamber, said 2014 was the year Norfolk 'finally became visible to Westminster' with chamber members personally lobbying prime minister David Cameron, chancellor George Osborne, and business secretary Vince Cable over the course of the last 12 months.

'The result of the strong partnership between the business community, MPs and publicly funded organisations has seen new funding for improvements to the A47, confirmation on improvements relating to our Norwich in 90 campaign, support for the Postwick Hub and of course the opening of the dualled A11,' she said.

'What the business community needs in early 2015 is faster more reliable broadband and mobile speeds and a greater coordinating in how Norfolk deals with business/education links. Our young people are our future and we need to ensure that they understand the world of work and their career opportunities here in Norfolk. Norfolk Chamber's theme 'Look at Norfolk, See Success' will continue through 2015, where we will ensure Norfolk's increased visibility results in action and increased funding for the benefit of its business and residents.'

Kevin Horne, chief executive, Nwes, said: 'In our region we have seen a number of significant events taking place in 2014 not least the long awaited opening of the A11.

'Unfortunately we have seen a number of household names struggling; from Heinz in North Walsham to the demise of Caterham Cars, and the perennial problems at Lotus, as well as the constant restructuring at Aviva.

But to counter this we have seen a burgeoning in the number of new businesses and strong growth from our regional champions such as 3Sun and Gardline Group.

'I believe that this scenario is likely to be repeated in 2015 with the balance moving in favour of faster moving smaller companies able to respond to the ever increasing changes that the economy brings. Those leviathans who have become household names will continue to struggle due to their inability to change course quickly enough to sustain growth in the face of an ever more fickle customer.

'My hope is that policy makers can respond to this shift in power to enable the drivers of growth to fulfil their potential. A great start would be super-fast broadband everywhere combined with support for new and growing businesses- all paid for by ensuring that the multi nationals pay their fair share of tax.'

• Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said the year saw a number of opportunities and challenges for the energy sector.

'In October the European Commission agreed that the revised plans to subsidise the construction of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point to be in line with EU state aid rules,' he said. 'The announcement leaves the way clear for consideration to now be given for the construction of Sizewell C power station which has profound implication for our region providing massive investment and jobs potential.

'Towards the end of the year we saw a dramatic drop in particular the price of oil and whilst this will have a negative impact on some businesses in the area the Southern North Sea is a gas basin the price of which has not declined at the same rate as oil so we are a little more robust here than other areas. The government also seems to be looking to gas generation of electricity as a major contributor to our energy needs so longer term stability of the gas market for the Southern North Sea seems likely.

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