Small could be beautiful for local supply chains

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber - Credit: Archant

Larger firms are showing a greater willingness to do business with smaller companies, helping to boost supply chains and their sustainability credentials, according to a leading business support group.

Bosses at Norfolk Chamber said that as the economy continued to pick up, there was evidence of an increasing appetite to doing deals locally.

More than 60 larger firms have signed up to the chamber's own Meet the Buyer event in Norwich on March 20 with interest from larger firms from across the region.

The chamber has teamed up with Norfolk County Council, Suffolk Chamber, and New Anglia local enterprise partnership to put on the event at Carrow Road – though despite high levels of interest from larger firms and public sector bodies, its success could hinge on attracting enough smaller firms to attend.

Meanwhile, the initiative has also been hailed by enterprise and skills minister Matthew Hancock as an example of developing an 'entrepreneurial ecosystem' between large and small firms.

He said: 'Earlier this year government launched the Business Exchange to foster an entrepreneurial eco-system, where small businesses can work more closely with bigger businesses to help them grow. This is part of our ongoing commitment to make Britain the best place to start and grow a business.

'Events like Meet the Buyer help strengthen the link between big and small businesses, unlocking new opportunities for both parties.

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Bradley Davis, group purchasing director at Kinnerton in Fakenham, an EDP Top 100 firm, said: 'It is not mission critical to have only local suppliers. If, however, we find that it is a cost-effective solution, then we like to support local companies.

'It can also be advantageous when looking at lead times, storage costs and transport costs. We believe that providing the service and quality meet our expectations then we can work with local companies.

Dirk Doornbos, materials and purchasing supervisor, at Sejacks UK in Great Yarmouth, said: 'Although geography isn't so much of an issue or barrier in modern business, it is easier to nurture stronger relationships with local suppliers.

'You can achieve as much in a 20 -minute meet face-to-face over a cup of coffee, than you can, sometimes, in 20 or so emails.

Lee Draper, from LaFarge Tarmac, in Norwich, said: 'By using regional suppliers, we also help cut product miles, which can help to reduce carbon footprint.

'This, in turn, helps maintain sustainable market prices and investment back into the local economy.'

Caroline Williams, Norfolk Chamber chief executive, said: 'The local economic news is increasingly encouraging. A clear sign is the increase of larger businesses who not only are willing to give a full day of their time to attend the Meet the Buyer event, but are able to identify exactly which products and services they are looking to meet their own customer needs or develop their own businesses.

'There are some specialist needs but core requirements such as training and business services are included in their wish lists. When the larger businesses start buying again it is good news for the whole Norfolk supply chain.'