Caption: James Laxton, managing director of Laxtons, one of the companies to benefit from Leeds City Region’s business growth programme
A new initiative designed to help the city’s manufacturing sector drive growth in the Leeds economy is to be launched tomorrow (Tuesday 16 July), backed by Leeds City Council, the Manufacturing Advisory Service and Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
The initiative aims to encourage greater take up of business support available to the city’s manufacturers and to develop sector-wide programmes that will benefit the manufacturing sector as a whole.
Launching the initiative, Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for development and the economy said:
“Manufacturing continues to make a major contribution to the Leeds economy both in terms of output and employment, with over 1,700 firms employing a workforce of around 30,000. Together they generate over 11% of GVA.
“Increasing the take up of support that’s currently available through organisations such as MAS and the Chamber, together with programmes such as the Leeds City Region’s business growth programme, is one of the ways we can support individual manufacturers.
“But there’s much more that we can do by working together – collaborating with training and education providers in the city, leveraging our influence and relationships and drawing on the expertise of the private sector – to develop initiatives that benefit the sector as a whole.”
Skills, access to finance and investment for growth, supply chain development, the need for closer collaboration with the region’s universities and attracting younger people into the industry are some of the major challenges facing the sector, set out in a report published to coincide with the launch of the initiative.
The report outlines what partners in the public and private sectors can and will do to support growth in the manufacturing sector.
It also highlights the latest findings from the Chamber Quarterly Economic Survey (June 2013), which shows encouraging returns for the manufacturing sector across the Leeds City Region:
• over a third of manufacturers reporting increasing sales and forward orders for domestic sales and 40% reported increased sales in overseas markets
• one in four firms has increased their workforce, with a similar number looking to recruit in the next three months
• one in three also report increased capital investmentMark Goldstone, head of business representation at Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce
“In the current economic climate, the survey findings are very encouraging but manufacturers clearly face challenges in accessing finance for growth and in recruitment, particularly skilled manual and technical staff.”
Longer term, manufacturing output is forecast to increase and the government has made the sector central to its strategy for ‘rebalancing the UK economy, moving it away from over-reliance on services and the public sector.
However, the sector faces major challenges in driving up productivity, investing for growth and in attracting young people leaving schools to careers in manufacturing and engineering.
Steve Gregory, team leader for MAS in Yorkshire and Humber said:
“There’s an urgent need to replace the higher level technical skills and experience of an ageing manufacturing workforce. But it’s equally clear that by increasing efficiency and productivity that UK manufacturers can compete on a global stage.”
He points to the success of manufacturing companies such as Yeadon-based engineering firm Produmax, which has secured new aerospace and defence contracts as a result of programmes undertaken with support from MAS, demonstrating how the region’s manufacturers can take on and win business against international competition.
Steve adds: “Experience shows that it’s essential to work with manufacturers to identify opportunities for growth and develop business support programmes that meet the specific requirements of manufacturer rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
Guiesely-based Laxtons, which recently reversed the ‘off-shoring’ trend by bringing its textile manufacturing operations back to the UK, after ten years overseas, recently received an £18,000 grant towards a total investment by the company of £150,000 in equipment for new finishing department.
Laxtons is one of 46 firms to receive financial support through the Leeds City Region’s business growth programme. So far, grants totalling £4 million have been allocated to companies across the city region through the programme, which is designed to support capital investment and create private sector jobs.
The business growth programme is funded through the government’s Regional Growth Fund and offers grants starting at £10,000 and rising to £1 million for larger projects, to support capital investment and help businesses expand.
Support is available to companies in a range of sectors, including manufacturers, and covers up to 20 per cent of the cost of an individual investment in premises fit outs, capital costs associated with relocation, purchase of new machinery and equipment.
Precision engineering specialist Produmax has seen turnover grow to a record £4.75 million, after a 12 month period in which it has secured new aerospace and defence contracts. Working with MAS, the company has implemented a range of lean manufacturing and process improvements to reduce cycles times and bring down costs by up to 60%.
Achieving the SC21 World Class Supply Chain standard has also resulted in significant improvements in customer confidence, with the result that Produmax is now a supplier of choice to some of the world’s biggest aerospace primes.
For media enquiries contact:
Leeds City Council economic development,
Tel (0113) 247 7851