CONFIDENCE seems to be the only thing hampering growth in the North East business community. That is certainly the message you could take away if you analysed the results of a series of recent surveys.
As reported yesterday both the Lloyds TSB Business Activity Index and the PMIs survey suggested that growth in the North East reduced in January despite modest growth in every other region in the country.
This comes fast on the back of the Viking Business Barometer that showed that one in five small firms in the North East feared closure by the end of 2013. One in 10, according to the survey, do not expect profits to increase in the first two quarters of 2013.
These negative statements make for good headlines, but do not give the full picture or even a clear picture of the North East. The region still exports more than it imports, the only region in the country to do so. Employment is increasing, and not just part-time work or the so-called portfolio employment where people are taking two or three temporary roles. The Viking Business Barometer also shows that 60% of SMEs are making winning business a priority and that 78% of SMEs plan to expand in 2013. In other words one in five of the companies fear closure but four out of five are planning to expand.
It has been suggested that the North East is still seen in Whitehall as a region that whinges about wanting more government money. This is not the case. Despite the closure of a large swathe of the economic development infrastructure in the North East.
Despite the use of assets built up in the North East to finance development in the South. Despite the inequity of nearly fifty years of the Barnett formula, the North East remains a vibrant place to do business. Pointing out that you are not treated fairly is not the same as asking for more.
The problem with this negative reporting of statistics and the unfair accusation that the region always wants more, is that it will damage confidence. It is therefore time that we all reported the positives and ignored the negatives.
:: Neil Warwick, is a partner at Newcastle-based law firm Dickinson Dees