County holding up against recession

BUSINESS leaders remain confident about the county’s economy despite the country sliding back into recession.

It was announced last week the country was back in a recession – just days after 115 jobs were lost in Corby following the closure of Aquascutum’s factory and the same week it was revealed 168 jobs would be lost at TalkTalk in Northampton.

But Northamptonshire Chamber chief executive Paul Griffiths said the news the economy was in recession painted an unduly pessimistic picture.

He said: “It is contrary to what we’ve been hearing from our members. National business surveys, and our own local quarterly economic survey, have shown a more positive picture, and I believe these give a more accurate indication of the underlying trends in the economy.”

The chamber’s quarterly economic survey showed significant increases in export sales during the first quarter of 2012, with manufacturing firms seeing an increase of 15 per cent and services companies a rise of 14 per cent.

The services sector also reported a 24 per cent increase in export orders – eight per cent more than the national average.

Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP), which is responsible for driving the county’s economic development, handled 370 investment inquiries during 2011-12, which secured and safeguarded nearly 700 jobs.

NEP director of economic development Sajeeda Rose said: “The county’s economy is still showing signs of growth although at the same time we’ve had the news of job losses at Aquascutum and Talk Talk so there are concerns.

“We’re finding while companies are still keen to invest here they’re taking slightly longer than they were previously to actually make the move.

“Their confidence has been shaken and the announcement about the recession won’t help with that.

“We know there are 4,800 young people out of work here which is why we’re running Challenge 2016 to get more young people back into employment by 2016.

“We’re also working with the library service on our Enterprise Hub scheme where we’re talking to unemployed people to see if they could start up their own businesses.

“In the past financial year we invested £150,000 into 10 county companies which helped create 29 new jobs and we’ll be re-launching this scheme again soon.

“Last month we also took a delegation of companies to Brussels to help them develop their overseas trade.”

Corby town centre manager Dan Pickard said: “The economy is challenging for everyone and we’re not immune to that but Corby town centre is in a pretty good state.

“There’s been consistent investment during the past five years and £500,000 will be spent on improving the town centre further to make it more attractive to shoppers, businesses and industry.

“We’re in talks with more retailers about moving into the town – we’re hoping to have more news on that in the next few weeks.”

Rushden Chamber of Trade chairman Adrian House said: “We’ve been working hard on our Portas bid for funding and we should find out how we’ve done after the local elections.

“Rushden has been lagging behind in terms of investment but we’re beginning to benefit from the recent improvements to the High Street.

“The general consensus from traders is they’re coming around to the Rushden Lakes shopping complex proposals. The extra people it will attract and extra jobs it will bring will benefit the town.”

Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce vice-president James Wilson said: “In general Wellingborough has a lack of employment land which is a constraint that needs to be addressed.

“But there are positives in the town centre – the council is bringing forward the High Street development which is predominantly residential but also includes mixed use which will help to kick-start the town centre.

“The fact stores like Marks & Spencer are coming here and that we have a fairly low level of vacant retail units shows Wellingborough is doing well.”

Kettering Chamber of Trade president Neil Griffin said: “Overall people are spending in the town centre so it’s not all doom and gloom.

“There are lots of positive things happening here.”