Manufacturers Honoured at Regional Awards Ceremony
The achievements of north west manufacturers were honoured as new figures revealed the sector in the UK returned to growth in September.
However, the celebrations were tempered by national concerns that the Eurozone crisis could yet derail the sector's success.
EEF, which represents UK manufacturers, held its North West Regional Future Manufacturing Awards at Salford's Lowry Hotel yesterday to recognise those firms which have impressed with their growth, innovation, training, environmental efficiency and exports.
Among the winners were Salford-based packaging equipment manufacturer Harland Machine Systems, which won the innovation award, and Bacup kitchen manufacturer JJO, which was handed the environmental efficiency accolade.
EDM, an engineering firm based in Newton Heath, Manchester, which makes aviation training simulators, won the export award for winning new business in China after experiencing a lull in orders in its traditional markets.
There were also prizes for outstanding achievements by apprentices. The winner of the first-year apprentice award was Samantha Ball, of MBDA, Bolton, while the final-year apprentice prize was won by Thomas Crowe, of BAE Systems.
The accolades were presented as figures from the Office for National Statistics showed manufacturing output increased by 0.2 per cent between August and September, after declining 0.3 per cent in the previous month. It is the first time the sector has seen growth since May.
The news was warmly welcomed by manufacturers after the sector's success in the early stages of the UK's recovery was derailed by the squeeze on consumer spending and the Eurozone debt crisis, which threatens the UK's biggest trading partner.
Some economists said there was still a risk of the sector slipping back into recession if growth fails to revive in key export markets soon.
David Ost, director of the EEF in the north west, said: "It is noticeable that the performance of individual sectors is beginning to diverge, with pockets of strength across the sector such as mechanical equipment and transport standing out in recent months.
"However, with the turbulence in external markets showing no signs of abating, we are likely to see continued uncertainty about the growth outlook in the months to come.
"Whilst government cannot affect the external outlook it must pull every lever at its disposal in the autumn statement to help companies invest and get its growth agenda back on track."
Clive Drinkwater, director of UK Trade and Investment in the north west, said the region's exporters were succeeding in finding new markets for their products in emerging economies such as China, Russia and Turkey.
He said: "The message that manufacturers should be looking to developing markets is really getting through.
"This part of the word, which is the biggest manufacturing region in the UK, is at the vanguard of manufacturing."
Meanwhile the CBI slashed its growth forecasts for the economy today (WEDS) but called on the Chancellor to stick to his deficit-busting austerity measures.
The UK's leading business lobbying organisation, which represents some 240,000 employers, has urged George Osborne to boost growth by attracting £200bn of private sector investment over five years but wants the government to continue with its spending cuts and tax reforms.
The group, whose members employ a third of the private sector workforce, made the recommendations as it cut its estimates for gross domestic product growth to 0.9 per cent in 2011 and 1.2 per cent in 2012, down from 1.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.
Ahead of the autumn statement, the CBI is urging the government to consider a range of measures to help kick-start growth, at "little extra cost" to the Treasury.
The group's proposals range from actions to boost investment in infrastructure, stimulate the housing market and improve the roads, to supporting energy-intensive industries, reforming the electricity markets and tackling youth unemployment.