Essex: County’s top firms more upbeat, but cautious, according to Essex Ltd 2013 survey

James Brown of Grant Thornton and Tracey Dickens of Birkett Long

James Brown of Grant Thornton and Tracey Dickens of Birkett Long - Credit: Archant

Essex firms say trading prospects have improved over the past six months but most remain cautious about future investment, a survey has found.

The poll was conducted to mark the launch of Essex Ltd 2013, an annual analysis of the county’s top 100 firms by business advisers Grant Thornton and law firm Birkett Long.

It found 69% of the firms believe current business conditions are a little or much more positive than six months ago and 44% expect profits to rise over the coming six months.

But more than half questioned said they are unlikely to make significant capital investment over the next six months and just 37% expect to increase head count during the same period. James Brown of Grant Thornton said optimism remained cautious. The main challenges to economic progress were a shortfall of skills (56%), an inability to access finance (48%) and a poor road network (44%), firms said.

“Our survey strongly suggests that confidence amongst Essex businesses is increasing, mirroring the signs we are seeing nationally as the economy slowly begins to recover. However, the results also reflect that optimism remains cautious. This could be a conscious decision to focus on consolidation whilst preparing for future growth but could also be linked to certain negative factors highlighted by our poll,” said Mr Brown.

When asked to name Essex’s key strengths, almost three quarters of respondents (70%) cited the county’s close links to London, just over a third at 67% said the entrepreneurial climate and 63% stated the diversity of business.

Tracey Dickens of Birkett Long said: “Despite some obvious challenges the county faces, Essex remains an exciting, entrepreneurial and diverse county for business. This year’s Essex Ltd survey will highlight in more detail how Essex businesses are performing. Last year’s study found the county’s firms had remained strong despite difficult conditions and we hope to see this picture has further improved.”

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The results of the third annual Essex Ltd survey will be unveiled at a dedicated breakfast event on Tuesday 3rd December. The study analyses key performance indicators such as operating profit and employment figures, and includes a breakdown of the financial data by sector. The top 100 companies are selected based on the postcode of their trading address and turnover levels.

To register your interest in attending the Essex Ltd results event or to sign up to receive a copy of the Essex Ltd report, please e-mail or