SO, the first month of another year has been and gone, and as has become the regular pattern over the last few years, the economic news that filtered through during those 31 days has been enough to make even the hardiest of souls think about getting back into bed and never coming out again.
The latest Office for National Statistics' figures showed that the UK economy contracted once again in the final quarter of 2012, raising fears of an unprecedented triple dip recession, and the equivalent US numbers surprised everyone by also showing an unexpected, albeit small contraction. Add in the substantial regional impact of the collapse of national retail chains HMV, Comet and Jessops, and we would appear to have an economic picture that's roughly as bright and cheery as one of LS Lowry's industrial landscapes.
Closer to home, the North East was reported as having the worst corporate insolvency record in the UK during 2012, with a year-on-year rise of 15% meaning that over 700 firms went out of business over the year.
Square that against a substantial increase in employment, and fall in unemployment.
The reality is that, shining through between the clouds hanging over those figurative dark Satanic mills is the light being cast by hundreds of North East businesses that are fighting against the prevailing economic winds to create jobs, win new contracts, strengthen their balance sheets and bring success to the region.
Take a business like North Shields-based Quick Hydraulics, which adapted its marketing strategy after being bought in 2011 by managing director Andrew Esson and which is now reaping the rewards of its ambition.
It's just broken through the £3m annual turnover barrier for the first time, with its eyes now firmly set on going past £4m this year, has won a major UK-wide contract and has added 10 new jobs to the workforce, with more expected to follow.
At the start of last year, Quick Hydraulics received a six-figure investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Plus Fund that's managed by FW Capital, and the momentum this has since helped to create is clear to see in the firm's performance since then, especially when finance from traditional sources can still be troublesome for even profitable, well-established companies.
The opportunity for ambitious North East companies to grow, develop and succeed is out there, and there's no reason for them not to get on and go for it.
For information on NEL's investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0845 111 1850.
:: Barrie Hensby, chief executive, NEL Fund Managers