The Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey – forming part of the largest private sector survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP growth run by the British Chambers of Commerce – finds that underlying economic conditions in Staffordshire remained stagnant in the second quarter of 2019.

 

The latest results from the survey of over 164 business – employing around 3,000 people – points to the impact that the relentless Brexit uncertainty, rising business costs and tougher global trading conditions are having on the local economy, with both manufacturing and service sectors locked in a ‘holding pattern’ of stagnated growth.

 

Key findings in the Q2 2019 survey:

Services Sector saw slight increase in the balance of companies reporting high domestic sales and orders, as well as export sales and orders, however both remain weak by historical standards.

Both service and manufacturing sectors reported decreased in capital expenditure on plant machinery and equipment despite this indicator increasing nationally, again capital expenditure and business investment remains low.

 

Manufacturing sector showed a positive uptick in the number of firms who have recruited since the last quarter, conversely the service sector shows continued decline in recruitment as the UK continues with record high levels of employment. Recruitment difficulties remain in firms looking for professional and managerial skills.

 

Sara Williams, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce said: “These results show that while some of the Brexit ‘pressure’ has been taken away from businesses due to political uncertainty, businesses in Staffordshire are feeling the affect of that indecisiveness.

“To boost and incentivise investment, our business community are looking for a bold growth agenda. The next government must hit the ground running and introduce measures to reduce the upfront cost of doing business, deliver on major infrastructure projects such as HS2, and unblock the arteries of Britain’s skills system.”

BusinessLodge, Staffordshire’s newest flexible office space provider, is offering a unique opportunity to Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Members to take a FREE stand at an exclusive Business Fair, held in the newly refurbished Trent House.

The market-leading flex space provider has expanded into Staffordshire with the development of contemporary serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms and conference facilities at Trent House, Victoria Road, formerly the Npower building.

The Business Fair is part of a prestigious opening event at Trent House to be held on Wednesday 10th July at 4pm until 7pm.

40 Staffordshire businesses will be exhibiting at the fair with many more delegates attending the event, including VIPs, the media and senior members of the local business community.

BusinessLodge is offering 20 FREE spaces exclusively to Chamber of Commerce members on a first come first served basis. It will be an opportunity for local businesses to take a stand and promote their services and network with valuable contacts. The event with be supported with marketing activity including PR and social media.

Kate Holt, Managing Director of Business Lodge said:

“BusinessLodge is hugely successful in Lancashire and we want to celebrate our expansion in to Staffordshire. We’ve already been made to feel extremely welcome by the local business community and this free event, as part of our wider open day is our opportunity to showcase our new building and say thank you.”

The limited places are expected to be quickly filled and so to secure your slot, please call Kate Holt at kate@businesslodge.co.uk or please call on 01782 390100.

 

 

Plans have been submitted for a new 120-bedroom hotel in the centre of Stafford.

The proposal for an Ibis Styles hotel comes on the back of huge investment in Stafford in recent times – like the six million pound Odeon Cinema, major retail premises including Primark, B&M and Aldi, alongside new restaurants such as Nandos and Verso.

The hotel is earmarked for vacant premises on Hunter’s Row at the north of the town centre. The proposals are now being examined by planners and people will be able to comment on the application before a decision is made.

The plans for the hotel can be viewed at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/planning-public-access

Head of Development at Stafford Borough Council, Karen Tierney, said the move was further evidence in the confidence investors had in the county town. Over the last couple of months around half a dozen independent businesses have opened in Stafford and latest figures revealed footfall in the town centre was up on last year – with a higher increase than the national High Street average.

Part of the planning application to the Borough Council states the hotel would provide local jobs, help improve the night-time economy and increase tourism. It says the application ‘makes beneficial use of largely redundant retail space. Redeveloping existing buildings that have outlasted their previous use.’

Karen Tierney said: “There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes selling the opportunities our borough offers to major businesses – not only in this country but around the world.

“The feedback we get from investors is that the borough is an attractive place to invest, our council and partners help make it easy for businesses to locate or relocate to the area, our connectivity to the rest of the country is good, and they can see the substantial growth already taking place.”

The authority has already put forward an ambitious masterplan to develop land around Stafford Station. And earlier this year the Borough Council was one of only five authorities to have been awarded £750,000 to develop plans for a garden community near Cold Meece in the north of the borough which could provide around 10,000 homes, schools, medical facilities and include a new west coast mainline station as part of a sustainable development.

Local business, Pawprint Badges, have been crowned People’s Choice winner for the Midlands at The National Family Business of the Year Awards 2019.

Pawprint Badges, a first-generation family-run business, came out on top in an online public vote against 13 other finalists in the category, which included long-standing family businesses with over 30 years’ experience.

Picking up the coveted award at a glitzy awards ceremony at The May Fair Hotel, London, last Thursday (6th June), Charlotte Russell, Director of Pawprint Badges, said: We are over the moon to have bagged an award! Having only been going for 3 years we didn’t think we were in with a chance at all but to have been voted for by our customers and followers, is humbling.”

“We aim to help others and provide a quality service that we would like to receive. Winning this award makes you realise that someone, somewhere (or rather lots of people) appreciate what we do and that makes it all worthwhile!”

Pawprint Badges create free activity packs and resources to support leaders, teachers and parents. The packs are accompanied by collectible, embroidered badges which sell for £1.25-£2.00.

The Lichfield based company also donates a percentage of profits in to The Pawprint Trust; providing grants to young members of The Scout Association and Girlguiding nationally, along with fundraising for other charities through the sale of their badges. Founded in 2016 by Charlotte and her husband Jamie, both Guide and Scout leaders respectively, they have grown Pawprint Badges year on year and given more than £3000 in grants to young members of their organisations.

Charlotte added: We are committed to upholding our promises made within Scouts and Girlguiding. We promise to do our best and help other people but, on this occasion, it is others that have helped us. We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, along with our family, who have supported and championed us tirelessly over the last 3 years, it really means the world to us.”

The People’s Choice Awards are organised by Family Business United, the award-winning magazine and resource centre that champions and celebrates the family business sector. Now in their seventh year, the awards recognise the diversity, strength and depth of family firms across the UK and seek to highlight the contribution that family firms make to the UK economy.

As Paul Andrews, Founder and Managing Director of Family Business United explains, “We created these awards to celebrate the enormous contribution that family businesses make across the UK. Winning one of the People’s Choice awards is truly special as it reflects the view of the public and is determined solely by an online vote. It is always great to receive recognition for your endeavours too. Family firms are the engine room of the UK economy and deserve all the recognition that they can get.”

A North Staffordshire based business coach is on a mission to create 1,000 jobs in the next five-years by helping companies to grow.

Former international sales and marketing director Doug Flynn is using his vast experience both on the corporate world and as a business owner to support business growth. Doug has joined the international ActionCoach network, returning to North Staffordshire and his home in Tittensor after a life of globe-trotting.

He said: “I have worked all over the world for multinationals and I’m now applying my 30-plus years of experience to help smaller businesses to grow. I offer different programmes from 90 day planning for the smaller businesses, group coaching events and full on executive 1:1 coaching for larger businesses with Teams.

“It’s really about transformational coaching, your business will not grow unless you do. Coaching is a process of learning but above all accountability, which business owners don’t have. The result is they shy away from key tasks of planning running KPIs testing and measuring, lead generation… the list goes on. Most business owners spend all their time working in the business not on the business.

“My aim is to help business owners to grow, create more profit and improve the work life balance. Ultimately, we are looking to build a commercial profitable enterprise that can operate without you in it. Going on to create wealth and financial freedom.”

Among current clients is BPA Safety of Stoke. Owners Darren Bedson and Vicky Milward have achieved a significant upturn in business having initially attended a business growth workshop, organised by Doug. BPA are a successful business, but progress had stalled a little due to loss of experienced staff. Now, the Leek Road based company has begun to grow again and plans to more than double its team to up to 12 staff.

“We were at a crossroads and had considered continuing running the business with a small core team,” said Vicky, “but Doug’s talk sparked a lightbulb moment as we realised that we didn’t have a long-term strategy and were constantly reacting to the latest sales trends. 

BPA now engage in bi-weekly one to one coaching. Strategies are defined along with action plans which are in turn implemented and then monitored for the impact. As a result, we are now seeing over-proportional growth in both sales and profitability.”

Darren said: “We have Key Performance Indicators and incentives and it is the focus of the Directors to work on the business rather than in the business. Doug ensures we are accountable for our actions and for our business plan. The first focus was on staff retention and we decided to move forward with new appointments and to refine our recruitment and interview process. This has led to the recruitment of one new full-time safety consultant, one part time consultant and we are now advertising for another full-time post. We’ve also implemented new business systems in our office and brought in a new administrator and this has helped free up Vicky to work more strategically.”

Further outcomes include weekly staff meetings and Vicky and Darren attend the Action Coach 90-Day Business Planning Growth Club, where they meet with a range of companies which Doug also coaches.

Vicky commented: “I had always felt an aversion to business coaching and assumed it wasn’t for me, but I’m now a total convert. We have a plan and we feel empowered to push forward with it.

“We started this process with four in the BPA team and are now advertising for our seventh and we have a clear vision to have a team of 10 to 12 in the business providing bespoke advice to our extended range of customers.” 

 

A regional partnership led by Keele University has been awarded £750,000 from the Office for Students (OfS) to develop an integrated community approach to mental health and wellbeing for students in further and higher education, in collaboration with Staffordshire University, as part of a £2.2 million project.

The universities will be working in partnership with local colleges and authorities, police and NHS providers, to effectively support students’ transition into, through and out of higher education, especially those with circumstances that may contribute to them being more vulnerable to mental health issues. It is hoped this will lead to new and innovative approaches that can be applied nationally in order to positively impact on student mental health, and as such a toolkit will be produced and shared across the further and higher education sectors.

Keele University’s community approach to mental healthcare is one of only ten projects to be awarded funding by the OfS, an independent public body sponsored by the Department for Education. The OfS funding will be supplemented by match funding from Keele and Staffordshire, together with financial support from all partners, with the project totalling £2.2million in total.

The funding is part of OfS’ major new programme to find innovative ways to combat a sharp rise in student mental health issues and spark a step-change in student support across the country. Key priorities for the project include a connected training framework, interventions for at-risk groups, a regional mental health campaign, and new multi-agency approaches to student support. The universities will introduce new activities and opportunities for engagement for both on- and off-campus students, increasing social cohesion and the opportunity for early intervention, and reducing the risk of isolation.

Through partnership working with the NHS, Keele and Staffordshire University will develop new and innovative approaches to assessing and referring students, allowing a more streamlined and sensitive approach to supporting students effectively in both emergency and planned situations. Both universities are already engaged with the Stoke-on-Trent Suicide Prevention Partnership and will develop a regional student-focused Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Keele University Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan said: “Student mental health is a strong institutional priority for us at Keele, and a frequent topic on the agenda of both the executive team and the University Council as we develop a new institutional strategic plan, in which health and wellbeing is a key strand. It is extremely exciting for Keele to be leading this project with the support of the OfS and to be working in partnership with a regional network of university, college and NHS partners. We believe this project could have a transformative effect on the wellbeing and success of our own students and those of our locality and beyond.”

Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes said: “Supporting the mental wellbeing of our students, many of whom come from the local area and are important parts of local communities, is fundamental to ensuring they are successful in their studies and take advantage of the many opportunities that come with a university education. This successful bid follows on from the Student Minds Mental Health Charter event we held in March and will see us, together with Keele University and our wider partners, take a nationally-leading role in what is one of the most important issues for students and many others.”

The project will be working with regional partners including Stoke-on-Trent City Council; Staffordshire County Council; Staffordshire Police; North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust; Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust; University Hospitals of North Midlands Foundation Trust; Stoke-on-Trent College; Stoke Sixth Form College; Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, and Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

The Managing Director of Newcastle based recruitment company Recruitment Robin Ltd has been voted in as Publicity Secretary of Trentham Rugby Club.

Selina Rudzik, has been actively involved with the club since her son Matty began to play in 2017. She is proud and excited to have the opportunity to give something back: “The benefits that being a part of Trentham Rugby Club have brought to Matty’s life have been amazing. He has grown not just as a rugby player but as a person. The club is set to grow this year and are currently looking to recruit both players and coaches. They already hold a lot of family orientated events that everyone can get involved in. There is such a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. It is a pleasure to be a part of it”

Trentham Rugby Club, which was established in 1948, are just as delighted with the recent addition to their committee: ‘We are really looking forward to welcoming Selina onto the committee’ states President of the club, Michael Bezus, ‘her experience of running her own business and her network of contacts will be a real asset. Anyone who knows Selina will have witnessed the energy and enthusiasm she puts into everything. This, coupled with her fresh ideas and business knowledge, will be invaluable’.

Recruitment Robin Ltd have built up strong connections within the business community both locally and throughout the county. Selina’s organised, positive and “can-do” attitude will be a welcome addition to Trentham RUFC as it develops and grows within the local community over the upcoming months.

 

Beeston Shenton Solicitors will be throwing open the doors of their Sandbach branch on Saturday 22nd June.

The team will be offering FREE 15 minute consultations giving customers the opportunity to get advice on a range of legal services and to get information on the latest discounts and offers available.

The open day will run from 10am – 3pm.

To find out more, call the Sandbach office on 01270 750 057.

Beeston Shenton Open Day

A major road scheme in Staffordshire to provide access to a new £160 million retail development and improve traffic flow on the roads around is progressing to its next phase.

The works being carried out by the county council will pave the way for the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock, which is set to be completed in 2020. McArthurGlen has committed £15million to the improvement scheme, taking place at Churchbridge and the A460 Eastern Way.

For the works to be carried out safely, Staffordshire County Council’s highways team will need to temporarily close sections of the A460 Eastern Way. A full closure of the section between the Hayes Way roundabout and the Lichfield Road roundabout in both directions will be in place from 6am on June 17 to 6am on July 1. Night time closures will be in place in both directions on the section between Hayes Way and the McDonalds roundabout on July 3, 4 and 5. Night time closures will be from 7pm to 6am.

Hayes Way will remain closed at its junction with the A460 throughout the works period.

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport Helen Fisher said: “The McArthurGlen Designer Outlet is a hugely important development for Staffordshire and the wider region. It will create jobs and bring visitors into Cannock, boosting the local economy.

“The road improvement scheme is therefore vital in paving the way for the development. Undoubtedly it will create some disruption, but it is a necessary part of the development. Traffic management has been carefully planned to minimise disruption as much as is possible.

“We would ask people to allow additional time if traveling along in this area and would like to thank people for their ongoing patience.”

Cannock Chase Council granted planning approval for a designer outlet at Mill Green in September 2016 following extensive consultations with the local community. On-site construction of McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Cannock started last summer. When it opens in 2020, this new landmark retail destination and community hub will create 1,000 jobs for the local area.

The road improvements will include:

  • Access and improvements on the A460 Eastern Way, Churchbridge interchange and Orbital Way.
  • Widening the A460 Eastern Way to a dual carriageway and creating slip roads to the designer outlet.
  • A new underpass and access to the site from the A460, new footpaths and cycle ways.
  • Widening both the eastern and western A460 legs at the Churchbridge junction to provide two lanes in both directions
  • Widening Orbital Way on the eastbound side, improving the Lodge Lane and Churchbridge roundabouts and installing new toucan crossings on Eastern Way.

Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG) has officially unveiled plans for a brand new £23M Skills and Innovation Hub.

The news comes following the successful application by the Group to Stafford Borough Council for permission to demolish mothballed buildings on the Earl Street and Broad Street corner of the existing campus, to make way for the new scheme which has a targeted completion date of 2022.

The ambitious plans include a 7,500 sq foot, 3 storey Skills and Innovation Hub equipped with leading edge equipment and state-of-the-art skills, construction, engineering and motor vehicle facilities, along with a 4 court sports hall, gym and 300-seat auditorium.

This latest announcement relating to the Stafford College campus comes almost two years after the College opened a brand new Science and Technology Centre which is home to state-of-the-art science laboratories, IT suites and a LEGO® Education Innovation Studio. Since the merger between Newcastle College and Stafford College in November 2016, a total of £13.5M has been invested to improve facilities and student experience at the town centre campus. Other recent enhancements include; a fully revamped Learning Resources Centre, new dining areas and a new Mac Suite, alongside substantial investment into innovative hybrid motor vehicle equipment and significant improvements to the IT infrastructure.

If approved, the plans will see the College exit its current leased skills and construction facility, located on Palmbourne Industrial Estate, with staff and course delivery transferred to the new facility on the main campus in 2022.

Principal and Chief Executive of NSCG, Karen Dobson confirmed that enhancing the learning experience for students whilst providing staff with an inspiring workplace to be proud of, were key drivers behind the plans. Said Karen: “When Newcastle and Stafford College merged to form NSCG we had a very clear vision of the journey ahead. Our latest plans serve to reinforce our commitment to investing in our estate to provide the students of Staffordshire inspirational learning environments that will help to optimise their talent and expand their horizons.”

“Early on in the merger process it was clear that we should consolidate our provision in Stafford on to one site and, once these works are completed it will mean all of our Stafford-based courses will be delivered from one, centrally located campus, with the best facilities in the region.”

In addition to College funds, NSCG is working with the Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and other partners to secure a funding package which will enable a prompt start to the development.

Contractors will be appointed following a tender process in early 2020 and full planning permission will be submitted in June 2019.

Continued Karen: “We hope to commence work in early 2020 be open in time for the 2022/3 academic year, but of course this is subject to us securing the necessary planning approval and funding. Approval will be fantastic news for the town as a whole and will bring positive benefits to the local economy and the thousands of future students and families who will become part of our college community.”

“We are excited about the proposals and the initial stakeholder feedback has been extremely positive, we will continue in dialogue with staff, students and external stakeholders as we move the project forward.”

If approved, the Skills and Innovation Hub will attract a diverse student body across a wide range of predominantly skills based subjects, which will help to address future skills gaps in the region whilst also supporting Government priorities around sport and increasing the number of young people studying on apprenticeship programmes. Already a significant provider of apprenticeships, NSCG currently has over 2,200 apprentice learners, working with over 800 regional employers, a substantial percentage of whom are in the skills and construction trades. The building will accommodate up to 1000 learners and up to 200 staff.

Stafford College is hosting an open event on Saturday 15 June between 10am and 12 noon, where there will be the opportunity to find out more about the proposed plans for the Skills and Innovation Hub. Alternatively visit www.nscg.ac.uk/consultation for more information.