It was a fascinating visit and I learnt a lot.
As an MP I visit a lot of businesses, both locally here in Tynedale but also across the wider North East and the country as a whole. I meet everything from one man [or woman] bands to huge employers like Egger, OGN, SCA and Nissan. The really interesting businesses, however, are the ones in the middle: these are the ones that we need to thrive and survive. These are the SMEs that really drive our economy, and none more so than in the North East.
In addition, on a regular basis I meet with the North East Chamber of Commerce, the Local Enterprise Partnership and other support organisations to find out what they want from the Chancellor, and how I as a local MP can help. I hold skills fairs, and jobs fairs like the one last week to do my bit and get young and old further and better employment: http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/jobs-fair-today-10-4pm-at-beaumont-in.html
I come from an engineering background. My family were engineers and gear manufacturers who started in a single room London basement: http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Opperman_Gears
Albeit, I accept that I am no engineer, the business of engineering and manufacturing - and the challenges of doing this in the global age - fascinate me. More importantly in the North East these types of businesses create and sustain a key part of our economy.
I can talk the talk that
- UK employment numbers are the best in Europe,
- that our unemployment is half that of France and our Euro competitors,
- that youth unemployment is down
- that apprenticeships locally have doubled
- and that FE providers like Kirkley Hall have seen their numbers go from 300 to 900
But to misquote Jane Austen it is a truth universally acknowledged by some manufacturers that cheap imports are making it tough to compete in the global market. So how can we survive in a global world? To an extent this is right - if a core commodity is cheaper to produce elsewhere the customer tends to buy from the cheaper producer. Twas ever thus. But where we in the UK, and in Tynedale, are getting clever is our approach to competitiveness, and innovation. The defining characteristic of GMS is their ability to provide competitive solutions to established manufacturing companies. This is a classic example of British innovation tackling a traditional industry and producing a company that is innovative and radical. It also employs over 25people in Prudhoe, supports a lot of good local causes as part of its commitment to the local area, and makes a profit. I am pictured with Owen and Andrew outside the premises. An interesting morning.