The Herald looks back over the best Plymouth business stories of the year

By WILLIAM TELFORD Business Editor @wtelfordherald

  •  (Dorcas Media picture).

Business editor William Telford looks back at a year of challenges and triumphs for the business community in Plymouth

IT was a year that started in optimistic fashion – and just got better and better.

Plymouth businesses, barring a few exceptions, have had a good 2014, and there is a buoyant feeling going into 2015 with unemployment falling and the private-sector economy growing.

There are likely to be a few hurdles during the next 12 months – not least a general election, potential public sector cuts, and geo-political issues – but, as Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans told Herald Business just this month: “This is our (Plymouth’s) time.”

So, let’s look back at 2014, a year that turned out to be even better than expected.


The year began with Dr Steven Brand, associate professor in economics at Plymouth University, predicting a “positive” 12 months for the city’s economy. He was spot on when saying a “new-found self-belief will begin to translate into investment and jobs”.

Meanwhile, Martin Bloom, of Insight Retail Consulting, said Plymouth’s retail pull depended on being able to attract middle-class shoppers.

And there was support for the recently-announced Plymouth and South West Peninsula City Deal from the national Centre for Cities think-tank, though it stressed it would need private-sector cash.


GOD TV attracted 1,000 delegates to Plymouth for a major conference, and outlined plans to create jobs, and bring investment into the city. Just this month, the company revealed it will be spending about £10million when it completes its plans, including turning the former Millennium nightspot, in Union Street, into a Revival Prayer Centre.

The Herald launched its annual Business Awards, which would go on to be the most successful ever.

National maritime consultancy BMT Isis became the latest marine-based firm to open a branch in the city, creating jobs.

And Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group released research saying manufacturing was worth £700million to the city economy, and employed a tenth of the workforce.


Plymouth removal firm Hackworthy and Sons revealed turnover had soared by 25 per cent on the back of an improving housing market.

Another Plymouth firm doing well was IO Technologies Group, which was expanding after landing £1.7million in investment.

Apprenticeship Week was branded a huge success – and included the launch of the stunning Making Waves sunfish statues, designed by city apprentices.

Plymouth’s new economic strategy was published outlining plans to create a marine industry campus and an innovation centre.

City experts said Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget changes to pensions, giving greater freedom with savings, were the most likely to have implications for Plymouth.


As the storm-damaged main line from Plymouth to London reopened, city business leaders called for a long-term investment from the Government.

Plymouth City Council launched its £500,000 scheme to help the city’s social enterprises.

And Plymouth SMEs were urged to bid for some of the £18million still available under round five of the Government Regional Growth Fund. Large firms Fine Tubes and Becton Dickinson were given grants of more than £1million each.


The Herald Business Awards were a huge hit. At Boringdon Park Golf Club, 17 awards were given out at a ceremony featuring special guest Greg Barker, minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Dr Graham Stirling received the Lifetime Achievement honour, and Barden Corporation (UK) Ltd, Applied Automation (UK) and Dartmoor Brewery were named Businesses of the Year.

Elsewhere, K2 Medical Systems announced plans to build a new HQ at Plymouth Science Park.

And a new masterplan was revealed for Millbay, with English Cities Fund consulting on ideas such as a nine-floor hotel, multi-storey car park and a public events space.


The Herald went east – to East Germany. Spending four days in Leipzig, as guest of its business development agency Invest Region Leipzig, Herald Business learned about the similarities between two manufacturing-led, up-and-coming regional cities, and the innovative ideas Plymouth can copy from our German counterparts.

Back home work began on the £4million Ocean Studios arts centre in Royal William Yard.

Also, Sutton Harbour Holdings revealed a new masterplan for the waterfront, as it posted a £308,000 profit.

The Government announced round six of the Regional Growth Fund, promising to pump £200million into the South West economy.

And Plymouth Business Show, at the Pavilions, was another hit, with more than 800 people touring 110 stands.


David Parlby stepped down as chief executive at Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and his successor, Peter Hartland, wasted no time in saying how impressed he was by the city – and stating it could be as successful as Chicago, a waterfront city he knew intimately from his time working in USA.

Also impressed by Plymouth was TV chef Gary Rhodes who called it an emerging city with a growing reputation for eating out, during a visit to his Rhodes @ the Dome diner. And Tom Bloxham, founder of Royal William Yard developer Urban Splash, said the yard would continue to evolve and grow as a business, even when all the buildings are developed.


The CBI became the latest organisation to highlight the dangers posed to Plymouth’s economy by a skills gap, calling for greater links between firms and schools.

City lettings and property agents were warned they must join the Property Redress Scheme or face a fine or even being shut down.


Independent training provider Skills Group became the new sponsor of Herald Business, and managing director Mark Boulting immediately warned the city’s economy could be damaged by a skills shortage, and also low wage growth and a tendency towards zero-hours jobs.

The Scottish independence vote saw the union preserved, but also opened a debate on the devolution of powers to the regions, with calls for more decisions to be made in cities such as Plymouth.


New Chamber of Commerce figures showed Plymouth had seen a huge growth in exports – doubling to £51million in the past year.

There was further good news as the Government’s South West Growth Deal package promised £16million for Plymouth infrastructure and job creation projects.

And leading bank Santander Corporate and Commercial announced it would pay for interns to work at Plymouth SMEs under a new growth scheme.


Plymouth Enterprise Week was branded a success after showcasing the city’s wealth of innovative companies, and being used as a platform to call for improved transport links and action to close the skills gap.

As part of that, Social Enterprise Week featured a debate on how businesses and schools can tackle skills issues, and Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, called Plymouth a “hub of (social enterprise) activity”, during a visit to the city.

Also in Plymouth was director-general of British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth, who vowed he would press the Government to build a new rail link from London to Plymouth.

Also in town was Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, who told Herald Business he’d oppose any plans to introduce a Late Night Levy on pubs.

And Brewin Dolphin’s head of research Guy Foster predicted a two per cent growth for the UK economy, when he met Plymouth business bosses.

Meanwhile, city manufacturers reported a successful year, with 71 per cent revealing a hike in turnover, according to a Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group survey.


The City Centre Company began to drum up support prior to next year’s vote on continuing the Business Improvement District.

Plans were revealed that could see Devonport’s South Yard developed into a marine engineering hub.

This prompted council leader Tudor Evans to proclaim: “This is our (Plymouth’s) time”, when meeting members of South West Women in Construction.

And GOD TV showed remarkable Christmas spirit by vowing to pay the “living wage” to its growing Plymouth workforce.

Read more:

Leipzig features in the Plymouth Herald’s Business review of 2014 where Dorcas Media helped organised the visit with Invest Region Leipzig and ICC Sprachinstitut

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