Company increase is boost for job numbers

Nearly 2,400 jobs were created or safeguarded in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire last year as the result of inward investment and expansion, a new study has shown.

The announcement, which coincides with the launch of the InStaffs Annual Review, revealed 49 companies moved into the area from March 2007 to April 2008, nine more than expected.

Of these, 34 firms received advice and project management assistance from the development agency, which is responsible for inward investment in the county.

Advice ranged from help with finding the right premises, guidance on recruitment and effective media relations to help on securing financial support.

InStaffs chief executive John de Kanter said the figures highlighted the resilience of the area and its continued appeal to investors both domestically and from overseas.

“The last 12 months have seen some major changes in the UK economy and the inward investment market has enjoyed a similar roller coaster ride from the buoyancy of summer 2007 to the impending spectre of the credit crunch biting hard,” he said.

“Throughout this period, we have seen sustained interest in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and this, coupled with tireless promotion, has helped us meet all of our major targets for the last financial year.”

“Over 2,400 enquiries were received, nearly eight per cent above the anticipated rate. This gave us a solid platform to expand on and we also benefitted from an unrivalled number of speculative build schemes currently on the market across the area,” he added.

There were some notable achievements in the last year, highlighted by Helical Governetz and its intentions for Project Keele, a 600,000 sq ft trio of high quality office developments that could eventually house major public sector departments.

“While most areas were reporting a downturn in enquiries, we have had a really eventful time and this is reflected in the number of companies expressing an interest in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire,” said Mr de Kanter.

“Empty building rates and the global downturn are going to bite in 08/09, but we feel we are in the best possible position to ride it out and emerge stronger than ever before.”

While accepting that next year would be tough, he said the county still had plenty to offer.

“We are confident we have enough selling points coming to the ‘boil’ to whet the appetite of investors,” he said

The Annual Review is a 16-page reflection on the year that was, with a breakdown on achievements and special sections on speculative build developments and the entrepreneurial bug sweeping the area.

The latter profiles eight different ‘enterprise’ schemes currently being built and which, when complete, will create 1,000 high value jobs.

“What has been really pleasing is the diversity of the companies choosing Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire as the base for their businesses,” added Mr de Kanter.

“We’ve had big name manufacturers in Recticel and Holland and Barrett, large distribution facilities like Waterstones and the excellent news that Vodafone were not only staying, but actually expanding to create a sizeable number of jobs.”

InStaffs, a partnership of Staffordshire local authorities and Chambers of Commerce, has recently re-launched its online property search facility to include an interactive map, over 1,100 properties and a new reporting system that makes comparing properties easier and quicker than ever before.

The company promotes Staffordshire as a business location and offers help to investors including information; site visits; assistance with planning applications; help with training and recruitment and grant advice.