More than 150 businesses and in excess of 1,500 people attended Durham Oktoberfest 2014, each playing a part in making it the most successful event to date.
Oktoberfest, which was once again held at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe, is the North East’s most high-profile engineering and manufacturing inter-trading and networking event and a showcase of the region’s world-class strengths and capabilities within these sectors.
Many of the region’s largest employers, including Nifco, Parker Hannifin, Faurecia, Cummins, Ebac, Seaward Electronic, Durham County Council and Bel Valves, were involved in Meet the Buyer, while Meet the Funder – a new element added to this year’s event to enable businesses to find out more about the funding packages on offer to them – attracted organisations and representatives from programmes such as Rivers Capital, Investment 4 Growth, NBSL and North Star Ventures.
Darren Race, chairman of the South Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Forum and Durham Oktoberfest project leader, said: “Oktoberfest has become one of the most important dates in the region’s events calendar and that was backed up by the calibre of businesses and visitors which this year’s event attracted.
“We said from the start that our aim was to attract some of the region’s biggest and most recognised manufacturing and engineering companies and when you looked around the venue on the day, it was clear we achieved that.
“The feedback from attendees was so positive with the consensus being that this was our most successful event to date.”
The core themes of Durham Oktoberfest 2014 were economic regeneration, addressing the skills gap and re-shoring – a term given to the return of manufacturing to the UK from low cost overseas supply chains – and each was addressed by the line-up of guest speakers, which included Mike Matthews, European operations officer for Nifco and managing director of Nifco UK; and Paul Watts, joint managing director of clothing manufacturing company the AMA Group.
Dr Simon Goon, chief executive of Business Durham, and Coun Neil Foster, portfolio holder for economic regeneration and development at Durham County Council, also took to the stage during the event.
Coun Foster said: “Durham Oktoberfest is so important, not just for County Durham but the North East as a whole. It’s the premier event for manufacturing and engineering companies and a real celebration of our strengths within these sectors.”
Durham Oktoberfest is delivered by the North, East and South Durham Engineering Forums in partnership with Nepic, the Advanced Manufacturing Forum, NOF Energy, the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) and BE-Group.
Regeneration on show across County Durham
County Durham is undergoing significant redevelopment thanks to millions of pounds of investment which is changing the landscape of the area for the better.
Whether it’s the continued growth of inward investors including GSK, Caterpillar and NSK, or the home-grown successes such as Ebac, Seaward Electronic, Thorn Lighting, Kromek, Gestamp Tallent Automotive and Thomas Swan, the recent announcement that Hitachi has chosen Newton Aycliffe as the location of its European headquarters for high-speed rail or the expansion of the innovative NETPark, it’s clear that County Durham has plenty to shout about.
Business Durham is responsible for driving forward the area’s economic development and regeneration and is the first point of contact for businesses operating in the area.
The man at the helm of the organisation believes there are three sectors which are key to the area’s continued growth; technology, engineering and manufacturing.
Collectively they account for 20% of the area’s economy, compared to the national figure of just 16%, and employ 15% of County Durham residents.
And managing director Dr Simon Goon also stresses the importance of Durham Oktoberfest, the region’s leading inter-trading and networking event, which enables companies within these sectors to meet potential suppliers and customers.
He said: “Oktoberfest is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the diverse range and depth of talent, the outstanding competitiveness and the innovation of engineering and manufacturing businesses in our region.
“These sectors form a major part of the county’s economy and outperform at both local and national levels which is a great achievement for what is a relatively small area geographically.
“The value of the engineering and manufacturing sectors in creating jobs and prosperity in County Durham is clear: it should be recognised that these sectors have particular needs and challenges which must to be met if we are to effectively support them.”
More than 60 businesses already confirmed for Oktoberfest 2015
Dozens of companies which attended Oktoberfest 2014 have confirmed attendance at nextyear’s event.
So far 64 businesses have already registered for 2015 with five expressing an interest in being a sponsor.
It comes as companies which attended Oktoberfest, either as an exhibitor, buyer, funder or visitor, have given feedback about their experiences from the event, which attracted in excess of 1,500 visitors in addition to the exhibitors, buyers and funders.
Bernie Johnson, managing director of Teesside-based freight forwarder Johnson Partners, said: “Oktoberfest attracts the right kind of prospects for us in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. This year we made some excellent leads and have already generated new quotes in response to inquiries for both freight and project forwarding assignments.
“We’d certainly like to be involved next year and recognise the positive impact that this event has on business and our network in the North East of England.”
Another exhibitor was Plymovent Industrial Solutions BV. Tony Ashall, its business director, UK and Ireland, said: “This was our first time at Oktoberfest and I can only say how pleased we were with not only the quality of contacts but also the quantity.
“We always say that we only need one good lead to make an exhibition but we had multiple good-quality leads which made the whole exercise more than worthwhile. We also felt that the attendance reflected the vibrancy of the industrial market in the North East and hopefully this will reflect well on the region in coming years.
“Together with our partners HLA Services we will be back next year.”
David Bradley, marketing manager at OSE European, which was also exhibiting, confirmed his business will be back again in 2015: “Oktoberfest far exceeded my expectations and the number of exhibitors and attendees highlights the strength of the manufacturing and engineering sectors in the region.
“As a specialist provider of logistics solutions to the sectors, the event was highly worthwhile in gaining a number of new contacts and promoting OSE’s services to a wider audience. We will definitely be attending again next year.”
Jonathan Gold, director at Meet the Funder participant Rivers Capital, said: “The exhibition brought together a great concentration of engineering and business talent, a worthwhile visit for any business serious about engaging with the sector in the region.”
Oktoberfest 2015: register now for 10% discount
Durham Oktoberfest 2015 will take place on Thursday, October 22, once again at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe.
Businesses which book before the end of December 2014 will receive a 10% early-bird discount and members of the regional engineering forums, NOF Energy, Nepic and NetPark Net will receive a 50% membership discount