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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the June 2012 issue

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Though the country has plunged into a double-dip recession, the North East Lincolnshire towns of Grimsby and Cleethorpes can look forward to a positive future, it is claimed.

There is much work going on behind the scenes by way of support for businesses - not only at the area’s Chamber of Commerce, but also at the Grimsby and Cleethorpes branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Grimsby’s Enterprise Village.

The area was rocked by the news that Irish food giant, the Kerry Group was ceasing production of its ready-made frozen meals at its factory in Grimsby, with the loss of 337 jobs. But it was boosted by supermarket giant, Morrisons’ announcement that it is to open its first ever UK seafood processing plant, in a disused factory on the town’s award-winning Europarc Business Park.

Richard Rowell, chairman of the North East Lincs branch of the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce - which covers the Grimsby and Cleethorpes areas - said there have been lots of developments in the past year and there are plenty of opportunities ahead.

“The recession has been tough for the North East Lincolnshire area. There is no doubt we have been badly hit and we are by no means out of the impact of it yet. But this area has many opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes over the next few years,” said Mr Rowell, also a partner in Grimsby based chartered accountancy firm Forrester Boyd.

“‘Renewables’ is one of the biggest buzz words around and business is now waking up to its possibilities. With the recent announcement of Siemens’ planning approval for a turbine factory, Centrica’s lease for its operations and maintenance base in Grimsby and the ongoing plans for Able’s marine energy park, there are excellent opportunities.

“With Greater Grimsby and the Port of Grimsby East establishing itself as an offshore wind operations and maintenance hub, it will create supply chain potential for many businesses.”

But it isn’t all about wind, with significant investment in other forms of renewable energy, such as biofuels, biomass and tidal technology and there is a focus on the food sector, with the Lincolnshire food trade corridor looking to promote North East Lincolnshire, including Grimsby and Cleethorpes as Europe’s food town.

Activities here include the continuing work of the Humber Seafood Institute, the development of the Seafood Village and the promotion of the PGI status for Grimsby Traditional Smoked Fish.

“Recent announcements, Morrison’s acquisition of the Kwoks factory and Albert Darnell moving to the Soya Magic factory, are helping to develop Europarc as a centre for food processing,” said Mr Rowell.

“Our international links are also improving, not just with the ports but Humberside Airport has invested heavily and is expanding its commercial business.

“We also have a local authority that, despite huge cutbacks, is continuing to promote and develop regeneration and development.The private sector now needs to continue taking a greater lead in development across the region.”

Mr Rowell added that although the region is filled with opportunities, it is still a very deprived area, with one of the highest levels of people ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEETs) in the UK.

He said: “It may seem at odds that the area has always struggled to attract and retain workers. Businesses are reporting that it is increasingly difficult to find candidates with the right skills locally.

“But the recent reduction in bridge tolls is expected to have an impact, opening up the travel-to-work area across the Humber region. And the activities of organisations like the academia and employer-led Enterprise and Education Partnership are essential, with its aims to ensure the workforce of the future is equipped with the skills that employers need.”

One such scheme which is helping to boost employment among youngsters is North East Lincolnshire Council’s Changeworks Apprenticeships grants scheme, which was launched last September.

Since its inception, fifty-six businesses have created new apprenticeship places with the help of the grant and thirty-one of them have been filled.

The grant scheme was introduced to encourage businesses to take on a young apprentice and to help ease the financial commitment required by the employer.

The scheme offers small to medium-sized businesses, that can create a new apprenticeship, a grant of £2,500 which can be used to subsidise a new apprentice’s pay.

The programme has been specifically developed to increase the number of apprentice opportunities for unemployed 16 to 18 year-olds and to encourage new take-up from local businesses.

North East Lincolnshire Council delivers a programme of services, through the Change programme, which aims to support businesses to create new employment opportunities and also helps unemployed residents to access work.

Councillor Chris Shaw, council leader and portfolio holder for finance and regeneration, said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for young people to start their career, earn money and get real life experience in a workplace.

“The apprenticeship grant scheme can help businesses with the cost, to enable them to take on an apprentice and give them an extra pair of hands within their company. Businesses can also benefit from being able to train an employee to meet their exact needs for both now and the future.”

Head of development, Jason Longhurst said: “The apprenticeship grant scheme is one example of the development service proposition to enable local employers to develop their workforce, generate jobs and give further career options in the borough to keep talent here.”

Support for businesses in the current economic climate is paramount and the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area has an abundance of support services.

e-factor Ltd, is a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring and providing professional support to individuals looking to become self-employed or start a new enterprise.

Established in 2007, it has helped more than 650 local start-ups, which are providing an estimated £225,000 per year in business rates and which have employed more than 700 people, many of whom were previously on benefits.

Based at the e-factor Centre, in Crosland Road, Willow Estate, Grimsby, it also provides support for existing businesses through business health checks, advice and guidance on business improvement and workshops on areas such as HMRC, finance, marketing, social media and productivity.

It also has its own newly-built, e-factor Enterprise Village close to the town centre. Located in Prince Albert Gardens, the flagship property contains modern, state-of-the-art office accommodation for hire, a managed reception, access to meeting rooms, ample parking and on-site business support.

e-factor is also about to launch its new Social Enterprise Centre for businesses which exist to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances or the environment. It offers a resource library, a start-up information pack, and business advice and a specialist legal structure consultancy service.

Marketing manager, Lucy Mountain said: “A social enterprise trades like any other business but how they work and what they do with their profits is different, re-investing the profits to do more good.”

Additionally, e-factor is establishing a unique business hub called the Business Hive offering premises for local businesses to hire, meeting space, facilities, workshops, seminars and hot-desking.

“The Business Hive will also offer special membership which will enable members to receive benefits and discounts on various schemes and services,” she said.

Part-owned and supported through the Grimsby Institute and the Enterprise Agency, e-factor works in partnership with North East Lincolnshire Council, the private sector and business and community groups.

Final preparations are underway for e-factor‘s Humber Business Week programme, which runs from 11th to 15th June in venues in and around Grimsby and Cleethorpes. It will feature workshops and seminars to suit new and existing businesses’ needs.

More details about the week and guest speakers can be found at www.e-factor.co.uk/humberbusinessweek.

The Federation of Small Businesses Grimsby and Cleethorpes branch is taking part in the week, by holding a special networking fayre.

Morrisons’ new seafood factory
Supermarket giant Morrisons is putting its faith in Grimsby by opening its first ever UK seafood processing factory in the town.

The leading retailer is the first supermarket in the country to have its own seafood plant and has chosen to set it up in the disused Kwoks factory on the flagship Europarc Business Park in Grimsby.

The news is a welcome boost to the town following the announcement by Kerry Group at the beginning of May, that its production of frozen ready meals in the town at its factory nearby was to cease with the loss of 337 jobs.

Morrisons’ new factory is due to be operational by September. It will create about 200 jobs. The retailer has said it is looking to fill positions, including managerial and factory operative posts, with local candidates where possible. Representatives were on site at Kerry’s plant during its ninety-day consultation period with staff, with a view to utilising some of its workforce.

Kwoks, an Oriental ready meal supplier to the supermarket industry, operated from the Europarc site for nine years but closed in September 2009, with the loss of 180 jobs.

The 33,000 sq ft factory is built on a 1.8-acre plot, with a further two acres available for expansion.

Morrisons sources and processes many of its own fresh products and has built up facilities in the UK.

Morrisons chief executive, Dalton Philips, claimed: “Nobody else is buying direct from the quayside but we’re doing it. Building this seafood business will allow us to move our fish from ‘catch to kitchen’ even more quickly.”

North East Lincolnshire Council leader, councillor Chris Shaw said: “The decision by the company to invest here is a massive vote of confidence in what we have to offer in North East Lincolnshire and reflects the proactive approach the council is taking to attract businesses to the area.

“We will also address the potential impact which may be felt by this investment, by continuing to lobby hard with government ministers to obtain Enterprise Zone status for Europarc. If successful, this would directly underpin the development of this site, which in turn would create even more job opportunities.”

FSB Event
‘You’re Not Alone’ - that’s the message to Grimsby and Cleethorpes businesses from the Federation of Small Businesses.

The FSB’s area branch is hosting a free networking fayre at Grimsby Town Football Club, Blundell Park, Cleethorpes on Tuesday, 12th June to help supercharge businesses.

Starting at 6.30pm, in the club’s McMenemy Function Suite, the Real-Life Entrepreneurs ‘You’re Not Alone’ event is open to all traders, giving them the opportunity to find out about all the help and support on their doorstep.

As well as the exhibition area, where businesses can promote themselves, there will be a free buffet at 6.30pm and a presentation on Real-Life Entrepreneurs and what the FSB is doing to help them.

FSB Grimsby and Cleethorpes branch chairman, Steve Ellis said the event will be a superb networking opportunity for small firms and businesses.

“At the FSB, we believe that everyone who has a good business idea and takes the risk to put it into practice is an entrepreneur - a Real-Life Entrepreneur,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve launched our Real-Life Entrepreneur campaign to promote the businesses that sew our economy together. This event will help to get businesses flying.

“It gives us the opportunity to bring businesses news about all the help and support which is available and the businesses in Grimsby have a real opportunity to combine their skills to obtain local contracts.”

The event is part of Humber Business Week (now in its eighth year), which Runs from 11th to 15th June.

The programme aims to educate, inspire and showcase the best that business has to offer. Speakers will share their experiences and views on a range of issues, such as finance, marketing, management and routes to growth.

Great Grimsby ice factory
A campaign is underway in Grimsby and Cleethorpes to preserve a Victorian ice factory, which is the only surviving one of its type in the country.

The Great Grimsby Ice Factory in Grimsby’s historic docks in Philip Avenue, Cleethorpes, is a Grade II listed building and still has its ice-making equipment intact.

Built in 1901, its purpose was to supply ice to preserve fish on its journey from the deep sea fishing grounds to the nation’s plates. At its peak, it produced 1,100 tons of ice per day and helped to make Grimsby the largest fishing port in the world.

It closed in 1990 but was awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage because of the original equipment and its location.

Now, there are plans to bring the iconic building back into use to help regenerate the area and attract more businesses to the location.

Campaigning group, the Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust (Great GIFT), was set up in 2010 to find a sustainable new use for the building.

Trust secretary, Graeme Bassett said: “Great GIFT believes that sustainable new uses can be found for the building. Because of the listing, some of the equipment must stay in place and can be refurbished to give a representation of how the building would have worked.

“But we also need to find new commercial uses for the rest of the building. Some of the suggested uses include an art gallery holding a collection of national significance, to match the historic significance of the building.

“This is seen as a key in regenerating not just the ice factory, but Grimsby’s historic docks and the surrounding area. Other uses include a climbing wall, a microbrewery, a four-screen cinema and a cafe bar.”

Its Grade II listing puts the building in the top seven per cent of buildings nationally. Three other ice factories from the period are still standing, but have had their ice-making equipment removed.

The historic dock where it is located, on the boundary between the town and the working docks, is currently the subject of an Article 4 direction from North East Lincolnshire Council, forcing the owners to go through a full planning submission before demolishing any more of the Victorian dock buildings.

These include the traditional smoke houses where businesses still carry out the practice of dry smoking which has recently won European Protected Geographical Indicator status for Grimsby Smoked Haddock.

Great GIFT is supported in its ambition, by local and national businesses and a wide range of heritage organisations. This has already had a positive effect on the wider community, with the Prince’s Trust for the Built Environment recently coming to Grimsby with a community workshop, looking at unlocking the potential of the historic docks and the currently depressed East Marsh area beyond.

“Great GIFT developed a vision of how the ice factory could be used so that its future would be assured,” said Mr Bassett.

“The consensus is to give the building a strong cultural identity, and also incorporate leisure, heritage, educational and commercial components which would add to the mix of uses and provide financial stability.”

Great GIFT is raising funds for an options appraisal, after which it will apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for development funding.

“A regenerated ice factory with the right mix of new uses can serve as a magnet to attract more interesting businesses and diverse visitors,” added Mr Bassett.

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