An article printed by The Telegraph yesterday (December 13, 2011) titled “Think Tank: uneasy alliance lines up to aid mid-size companies” discusses the battle for middle corporate Britain and the threat of cheap labour and rising production standards in the East as well as weak growth and high unemployment closer to home (the UK).
The article goes on to state that the majority of businesses within the UK are not accepting the decline. The leading construction equipment group JCB was asked to single out the suppliers that consistently impressed and the top four included Thos Storey Fabrications (Manchester), Microlise Ltd (Nottingham), ADM Pressings (Newcastle) and Safety Glass (Tyneside).
These companies were asked to comment on the action they thought was required to help with this growing issue. Advice and a little funding seems to be the answer from Whitehall but aligning what officials feel is possible with what the companies want is not that straightforward. Bob Harbey, managing director of Microlise, states ‘If we want help, we help ourselves first. If we can’t, then we will ask others.’
Another impediment is basic workforce skills. Apprenticeship funding is welcome but finding the right apprentice remains too difficult.
Harbey, one of three director owners at Microlise agrees. It has built a vehicle-management and tracking system called LiveLink for JCB and is growing rapidly. “Not having the right talent at the right time is a real show stopper,” he says.
The £22m-turnover firm, which employees 200 people, invests around £3m a year in developing its software and hardware, used by the likes of Ford in the US, MAN Trucks in Europe and JCB around the world.
For Harbey, the Treasury plays a key role for his company via research and development tax credits. “R&D tax credits are one of those things that enable us to get more bang for our buck,” he says. He would also like more finance support to help reduce the risk of investing in developing products and services for large companies.
For Microlise, securing an important five-year deal with JCB involved spending £1m up front on development, with no guarantee of orders. As an owner-managed firm, Microlise took the risk that development work would not pay off. Other companies, controlled by external shareholders, may be less willing to do so, he says.
The article goes on to conclude that Whitehall and the wider public sector should re-learn; Cable the Wise and his minons exist to serve Middle Corporate Britain, not the other way around. Only then will the battle be won.
For the full article please visit www.telegraph.co.uk