July’s official launch of the Thames Valley 250 proved a major draw, with many of the region’s top business people attending an evening drinks reception at Stoke Park.
David Murray, managing director of Elcot Publications and publisher of The Business Magazine, welcomed everyone before handing over to special guest speaker Dennis Turner, chief economist at HSBC, who provided an entertaining and thought-provoking overview of the economy.
Striking a cautiously optimistic note, Turner said: “We are seeing a classic U-shaped recovery. With growth in the economy at 1.25% per annum, there is still some way to go before we get back to normal, but at least the journey has started.”
It was, he added, important that interest rates stay lower than inflation to help stimulate activity and predicted that they would remain at their current position for the rest of the year.
There was a warning however of the risks which remain, not least the economy’s legacy of debt built on the back of a consumer spending spree which would, he said, take time to unwind.
Looking ahead, he pinpointed businesses involved in export and manufacturing as leading the path to future growth.
“The way out is to export and a weak sterling is good for the export market,” he said. “You need to have somewhere to sell to and 50% of our exports go to Europe. When Europe grows strongly, our ability to trade our way out of the recession is limited. The real action is where we are not strong, emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, which means there is a risk.
“Manufacturing is also key to going forward, we have been too reliant on the retail sector. Manufacturing has been there all the time, it has not grown as fast as everything else but it is still there. It is important and manufacturing needs a much higher place on the economic agenda.”
The Thames Valley 250, which is sponsored by business advisers Horwath Clark Whitehill, HSBC, law firm Blandy & Blandy LLP and the Thames Valley Innovation & Growth Team lists the top private companies in the region.
It saw Bracknell-based Waitrose take top billing with sales of some £3,940.1 million, followed by sales outsourcing company CPM (UK) from Thame and nuclear fuels specialist Urenco, from Marlow, in third place. Other well-known featured names from across the region included waste management specialists Biffa Waste Services, Twyford housebuilder Millgate Developments and Newbury’s Ridgeway Group motor dealerships.
Speaking after the event, Murray added: “We were thrilled that so many people were able to join us for the launch and our thanks must go to Dennis Turner for such an enlightening contribution. We hope that the Thames Valley 250 will become a recognised vehicle for celebrating the growth and prosperity of many of the region’s successful businesses and look forward to hearing about future achievements.”
The Thames Valley 250 will be updated at regular intervals with details on a dedicated section of The Business Magazine’s website and a definitive 2011 list will be published in July 2011.