Businesses ready for new year challenge despite Brexit clouding future

Companies will be able to grow and thrive this year despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, vow the region’s business chiefs.

Ninder Johal
Ninder Johal

Despite a challenging 2018 which saw companies hold back on investment, many have reported their finances are in increasingly good shape.

Further investment in skills and a rise in opportunities in trading overseas will also help businesses to expand in 2019.

Ninder Johal, who sits on the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership(LEP) board, said: "Skills have gone up. We have invested a lot more money into skills, especially construction and manufacturing.

"Employment and wages are up, and there are more people living in the area so more people are spending more. More businesses are starting up than ever before.

"Without a shadow of doubt investment is on hold. Businesses don't know whether to set up offices abroad and are holding back on making purchases. But I believe there are a lot of things to be positive about in the next two to three years."

2018 started with the collapse of Wolverhampton-based construction and services giant Carillion, which was hit with debts in the billions.

Last week's collapse of retail giant HMV also capped a torrid year for retailers. Notable high street names such as Poundworld, Toys R Us and Maplin all went bust in 2018.

House of Fraser also went bust with debts of nearly £1 billion and was bought out of administration by Mike Ashley and his Sports Direct empire, leading to the Beatties store in Wolverhampton being saved from closure.

Black Country Chamber of Commerce chief executive Corin Crane said: "Whilst there was undoubtedly much cause for celebration, there has also been a range of challenges that we as a region have faced.

"In January, the collapse of Carillion saw thousands lose their jobs and companies involved in the supply chain network being adversely affected.

"In addition to this, the lack of clarity coming from Central Government with regards to Brexit has been a cause for concern amongst the Black Country business community.

"As we move into 2019, we are strategically placed to ensure that the Black Country business community continues to thrive through the implementation of a series of exciting initiatives. Ahead of Brexit we will launch our new international trade package to help support businesses that are looking to expand their operations overseas. Entering new markets can often be daunting and tricky to navigate and through a portfolio of products and services we want to enable companies to both import and export with confidence."

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