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Black Country Bucks National Trend with Increased Manufacturing Exports

Johnathan Dudley, Chair of The Alliance for the Black Country and Managing Partner and Head of Manufacturing Business Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP, presented the quarter 1 Economic Survey results on 14 April 2015 at the Park Inn, West Bromwich on behalf of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

The overall trend shows continued confidence in both the manufacturing and service sectors.

He pointed out that availability of cash was becoming more important to many manufacturing businesses in the region than the availability of skilled people. “Business confidence is high and there is an increased willingness to invest in new machinery,” he said. “However if smaller businesses are not being paid on time we will see more businesses struggle to increase capacity.

“Manufacturers are buoyant about the future despite a drop in domestic sales. Recruitment difficulties are easing but businesses are looking for flexibility in their workforce.”

Commenting on export figures, Johnathan said: “Export sales have dropped 5 points nationally and 19 points across the West Midlands since the end of 2014. In the Black Country export sales have risen 7 points and orders have risen 21 points. Although it is too early to tell if this is a trend, it is reassuring that the encouragement we are giving to local businesses to explore new markets is paying off.”

A snap poll conducted at the event shows the West Midlands remains the favoured level for devolved powers for the second quarter although half of those polled expect that there will be no net effect on the Black Country. Furthermore 75% of those polled think that government lending initiatives have no effect and 69% think that government initiatives on export make no difference.

Johnathan added: “Whilst government initiatives focus on large companies, the opportunities for smaller companies wishing to secure new funding for growth appear limited. We know that risk is the issue but small business needs have to be managed rather than being put in a box labelled ‘too difficult’.”

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