Chamber of Commerce survey shows Suffolk doing well

Chamber of Commerce survey shows Suffolk doing well

Over 200 Suffolk firms contributed to the British Chamber of Commerce’s (BCC) Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for the period April to June 2017 – the largest response rate for several years.

The survey takes a detailed look into the current levels of activity among Suffolk businesses and their prospects for the future – and shows a generally positive picture for the county’s wealth creators.

More companies recorded an increase in both domestic orders and sales than reported a decline, with export figures increasing most strongly of all – with Suffolk companies outperforming the East of England region.

Suffolk also outperformed the regional average in terms of those reporting positive cashflow and investment plans for new plant, machinery and equipment. By contrast, whilst more firms reported a likely increase than a decrease, the county lags behind the East of England as a whole in terms of increased investment in training.

The majority of Suffolk businesses are expecting an increase in both turnover and profitability, with Suffolk’s manufacturing sector recording an impressive +36% balance expecting boosted profits. Just over a third of respondents are operating at full capacity.

More companies forecast that they will be putting up prices (39%) than not (4%).

The data also showed that there was a modest jobs growth in the quarter with this set to continue into the next three months in both manufacturing and service sectors.

However, whilst most Suffolk businesses had attempted to recruit new staff, over six out of 10 of these had struggled to do so. 80% of the manufacturers responding reported that they had had difficulty in finding staff.

In terms of the longer-term future, the top three concerns for businesses are inflation, competition and corporate taxation.

John Dugmore, Suffolk of Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, said: “Firstly thank you to the 228 Suffolk businesses who took the trouble to complete the latest QES and provide us with this valuable snapshot of what they are doing and planning to do.

“Secondly, the figures show a local economy that is doing well across the board – a reflection of the strong leadership and wise planning of our members and the broader Suffolk economy. The Suffolk business story is one of ambition, resilience and success.

“However, we are concerned that this momentum could falter both if firms cannot recruit the right staff to fill vacancies and if they see their margins eroded by increasing levels of taxation and inflation.

“We will redouble our efforts in encouraging schools, colleges and others in the education sector to ensure that businesses have access to the right aptitudes and skills, whilst urging firms not to turn the taps off in terms of mentoring and training of their existing staff.

“We are also pressing Government, through the BCC, to take the pressure off businesses of an over-heavy taxation regime, skewed towards saddling firms with up-front costs.”

Suffolk Chamber is grateful to Suffolk Knowledge, part of Suffolk County Council, for providing the analysis of the QES.

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