David Laws: A week to savour as the NECC President includes lessons from Thomson Airways chief

Labour market growing, Thomson chief opens up and quarterly economic survey gives more reasons to be cheerful

British Airways' first dreamliner makes a flying visit to Newcastle.
British Airways' first dreamliner makes a flying visit to Newcastle.

It has been a week to savour as President of the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Firstly, I was proud to host another fantastic President’s Club event for 170 of the region’s leading business folk at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park home.

It was great catching up with guest speaker Chris Browne, CEO of Thomson Airways, who will this month bring the company’s Dreamliner Boeing 787 to operate from Newcastle International Airport.


Chris has been working in the travel industry since the mid-1980s and entertained guests with many a tale from her rise to the top of the country’s third largest airline.

President’s Club proved a positive precursor for an even more positive Quarterly Economic Survey, and I have been delighted that the optimistic trend established in the 2013 surveys has been more than carried into 2014.

The Q2 survey represents yet another positive set of data, continuing on from the strong finish we saw to last year and the solid start that was made in the first quarter of 2014. The survey reflects the growth and activity we are seeing at Newcastle International Airport, with growth expectations in the survey illustrating the activity that we see on (and off) the ground every day.

The strong positivity that fed through from the manufacturing sector in the first quarter of this year was very noticeable and has continued this quarter, albeit it has been more than matched by feedback from the service sector which is hugely welcome.

Other encouraging news is that exporting companies are still expecting growth and the latest indicators only serve to underline this. Of course that is something that we welcome at our international airport but it is the whole economy of the North East that will reap the benefits.

The North East labour market also continues to grow, with the caveat that our unemployment rate is still stubbornly the highest in the UK. However, the rate of increase in the North East employment figure is the highest in the UK in sectors as varied as biologics, pharmaceuticals, automotive, oil and gas – to name a few.

These increasing confidence levels are reflected in expectations for future workforce as well as scores for hiring of full-time and permanent staff – which is a clear barometer of their confidence. In particular, plans for future plant and training investment have increased on a year ago which again underlines growing confidence in the private sector. All in all our report illustrates that, while growth isn’t a God-given right, it is continuing in a robust and promising way.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer