Although service industries continue to play a major role throughout the UK when it comes to employment and invisible exports, there is a general perception that manufacturing is somehow more socially and economically desirable. The truth of the matter is probably that everyone is proud of Britain’s fine engineering and manufacturing heritage and feels that the sector is performing way below its potential.
The East Midlands is typical of a region with a wealthy manufacturing tradition, much of which has been lost and not replaced. In Victorian times Leicester was famous for its foundries and textile mills with just about everyone wearing a pair of socks made in the city. Similarly, its near neighbour, Nottingham, was world famous during the 19th Century for making everything from lace to Raleigh bicycles.
Of course, both places suffered the same fate as many others around the country which saw their core industries gradually being undercut and put out of business by fierce competition from developing countries, particularly in the Far East.
Today, however, a new breed of young entrepreneurs seems determined to emulate their forbears and, phoenix-like, build a whole new raft of engineering and manufacturing businesses where the old mills and foundries once stood.
Typical of these is Ross Kemp whose Asap Watercrafts is competing in the Science and Technology category of the forthcoming Leicester Mercury Business Awards which are expected apto attract entries by some 170 other local companies. Many of the vibrant young enterprises like Ross’s spring out of the technology orientated universities in the region like Loughborough and De Montfort. Indeed, Asap Watercrafts is actually based on the campus at Loughborough. Kemp’s product is a battery powered craft for use as a cheaper alternative to jet skis for lifeguards and bathers and the business has already won valuable endorsements from the likes of Sir Richard Branson.
Also gunning for an award at the ceremony, which has attracted major sponsors including banks and leading accountants, is another thrusting enterprise, Lestercast, run by MD Chris Batty and currently employing over 40 staff. The company was operating a foundry almost half a century ago but has now re-invented itself by cleverly getting its basic foundry work done more cost- effectively in China while carrying out all the more sophisticated and value added work locally here in the UK. By using this optimal formula, Lestercast has been able to win back work which had previously migrated overseas and has evolved as a leading supplier of precision components to the automotive and aerospace industries among others.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Nottinghamshire, Losberger UK, who manufacture luxury marquees and rigid temporary structures, have just moved to larger premises near Long Bennington to cope with rising demand for their structures for corporate, public, sports and hospitality events. Project Manager, Matt Ryland explained: “We are seeing more potential in the corporate sector for our structures and we needed to relocate to a bigger unit”.
It seems that growth in the East Midlands is finally starting to move up through the gears and it is gratifying to see so much of it emanating from the region’s proud engineering and manufacturing heritage.
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