Manufacturers show they can make a difference

TWO COMPANIES have demonstrated that manufacturing is alive and kicking in Britain by sharing first prize in the first Business Links Making the Difference Awards. AST Group, a business that supplies "surface treatments" for the defence industry, and Peter Miles Engineering, which makes steel fabrication for the off-highway vehicle industry, each received pounds 10,000 from Richard Page, the junior minister with responsibility for small firms.

The competition, supported by the Department of Trade and Industry and Shell UK, was designed to reward companies that had worked successfully with their local Business Links on a specific project leading to improve performance, products and services. The two companies shared the prize because the judges felt that they had performed impressively while at different stages of development.

AST, which uses an innovative dry plastic technique in its treatment of aircraft, tanks and other specialist applications, joined with Business Link Gloucestershire to devise and put in place a strategy that would create a stable platform for meeting its growth potential as well as reducing the dependency on a small number of large customers. It has secured new funding, increased production capacity by a half and secured contacts with Europe.

Peter Miles Engineering needed to invest in technology to become a leading company. With help from Business Link Metropolitan Wigan it has drawn up a strategy based on the World Class Manufacturing Programme for attaining this status over five years. It, too, has secured funding as well as installing new technology and training staff to operate it.

Each business, along with the other eight finalists, had already been awarded pounds 5,000. The recognition of these "role models for our small businesses", as Mr Page referred to them at last week's awards ceremony, comes at a time when it emerged that two executives at the Merseyside Business Link had been suspended pending an insolvency investigation. Last week also saw a report from the Institute of Directors that found that the quality of Business Links was mixed.

The Business Links form a national network of "one-stop shops" where firms can obtain a range of advice and information at little or no cost to help them expand. Though private sector organisations, they bring together the links of Training and Enterprise Councils, chambers of commerce, local authorities, enterprise agencies, universities and banks.

The first two schemes, in Leicester and Birmingham, opened in September 1993 and there are now 72 partnerships, with 194 outlets.

The IoD report found that there was widespread support among businesses for the concept but it called into question the quality of the personal business advisers. It said directors were not convinced that all of the people who were fulfilling this role had the necessary solid business experience.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor