Confidence ‘strong’ among Suffolk firms, poll finds

Jonathan Agar, CEO, Birketts (left) with Ian Thoroughgood of Grant Thornton.

Jonathan Agar, CEO, Birketts (left) with Ian Thoroughgood of Grant Thornton. - Credit: Archant

Confidence among Suffolk businesses is strong with the majority expecting to increase profits, investment and staff levels over the next 12 months, a poll has found.

However, availability of skilled people remains a key concern, according to the study by business advisers Grant Thornton and regional law firm Birketts.

The confidence poll was conducted to mark the launch of Suffolk Ltd 2015, Grant Thornton’s annual in-depth analysis of the performance of the county’s top 100 businesses which for the first time since its launch in 2002 will be run in partnership with Birketts.

The study, which has become a recognised barometer of the overall health of Suffolk’s economy, also takes on a new look for 2015 with an additional focus on the county’s fastest growing businesses, plus a ‘ones to watch’ section highlighting those companies which are likely to make it into the top 100 next year.

Results of the preliminary confidence poll reveal more than two thirds (70%) of Suffolk firms questioned believe current business conditions are a little more or much more positive than they were six months ago.

A further 74% of businesses expect to increase profits and 56% anticipate taking on more staff over the next six months, excluding seasonal variations, while 73% said they are likely or very likely to make significant capital investment over the same period.

Ian Thoroughgood, associate director at Grant Thornton’s Ipswich office who is co-hosting Suffolk Ltd 2015, said: “Last year’s Suffolk Ltd results showed a strong performance by the county’s largest firms with investment turning into tangible growth. The findings of our confidence poll bode well for the 2015 study results with Suffolk firms clearly upbeat about their future prospects as the local economy continues to strengthen.”

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However, a lack of skilled talent remains a key concern for the county’s businesses with more than two thirds (69%) stating this as one of the biggest challenges for the future, up from 53% in 2014. Too much regulation (23%), instability in the Eurozone (19%) and poor access to funding (15%) were also cited as barriers to growth.

“As a business grows, so does its demand for the right, skilled people to take the company forward,” said Mr Thoroughgood.

“The recruitment market becomes more competitive and there simply isn’t enough talent to go round, resulting in the skills gap we are seeing across the county – and the rest of the UK. To win the battle for skilled staff, Suffolk businesses need to look at how they can best incentivise their people in terms of wages and employment conditions and also how they can grow their own talent within the business.”

The Suffolk Ltd 2015 results will be unveiled at a breakfast event on November 24, at Wherstead Park, Ipswich, hosted by Grant Thornton and Birketts.

Jonathan Agar, chief executive at Ipswich-based Birketts LLP, said: “We are delighted to join forces with Grant Thornton on Suffolk Ltd which over the last 13 years has become a key event in the county’s business calendar.

“We have extended the parameters of this year’s survey to also shine a spotlight on the high growth, ambitious companies which play a huge part in driving the local economy forward. This will enable us to provide an even more accurate picture of what is happening in the Suffolk marketplace.”

If you want to attend the Suffolk Ltd 2015 results event or receive a copy of the full Suffolk Ltd report, email