So here we are, then. The last knockings of 2021. And we arrive, just like 12 months previously, with the pandemic’s shadow continuing to hang over us.
But rather than look back, we wanted this edition to focus on the future, to the great potential held by new investments, developments and commitments that promise to deliver fresh confidence to our region.
Our cover story epitomises that attitude. Joanne Leng, who will officially become chief executive at Durham- based energy sector business development organisation NOF next month, tells us about the critical role our region can play in the Government’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. With the need to act on climate change exacerbated by the recent COP-26 summit, Joanne talks about the proactive work NOF is doing – and has done for years – to help firms and their supply chains transition to new energy futures.
As another year heads towards its conclusion, Steven Hugill looks back on 12 months of change for this publication, as well as investments that provide significant potential for the region’s future. The theme of investment is covered by Legal & General’s Nigel Wilson, who details the firm’s multimillion-pound support for developments across Newcastle and Sunderland.
From the former’s flagship £350 million Helix science and technology hub, to the latter’s rebirth of the Vaux brewery site, Legal & General is playing a crucial role in catalysing job creation while laying a platform for wider promotion of the North East as a business focal point.
It’s rather apt this month’s edition follows so soon after the Autumn Equinox, for defined change is a theme that runs throughout the magazine.
Just like the environment transitioning around us, as summer warmth gives way to cooler days, and lush greens turn to orange and brown, the North East business landscape is going through its own myriad of shifts.
One of the most noticeable has come at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, where John McCabe has taken on the mantle of chief executive from James Ramsbotham.
His departure represents a major loss for the business membership organisation. Yet in John, it has found a perfect successor.
Holidays are all about going to new countries, touring their sights and exploring their cultures, customs and cuisines. Often, these experiences stimulate new learning, reflections and ultimately philosophies, which can lead to fresh journeys that build businesses and turn organisations into household names. Chloë Clover and Lou Tonner know all about such adventures. Their present journey actually began with an ending; the pair left the North East on one-way tickets to Australia, later moving on to Far East Asia. However, their trip ultimately brought them back again, with work for tourist businesses and attractions they’d encountered on their travels catalysing the creation of Middlesbrough-based video marketing company Wander Films. Chloë was earlier this year flagged on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list as a talent to watch across future years.
When Rebecca Welch became the English Football League’s first female referee in April, the media interest around her appointment arguably overshadowed the game she officiated – Harrogate Town versus Port Vale. And while the coverage was positive, it got me thinking at the time that it perhaps delivered more questions than answers on gender division and equality. Was the reaction to her appointment a sign of how far we have come, and that more glass ceilings – the male-dominated world of football a particularly difficult one to break – are finally being shattered? Or was it instead proof that there remains some way to go before a woman doing a ‘man’s job’ can do so without attracting unnecessary headlines? For Rebecca’s part, she admits to not seeing herself as a trailblazer, and that the word meant little if nothing to her before she received the Football League call.
Entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are ahead of the curve. Every entrepreneur has a different story to tell, be it their product or service, the size of their venture or the funding streams that catalysed their dream. Having spotted a gap in the market for womens’ activewear while holidaying in Ibiza, the sisters’ three- year-old company YANA Active is building an increasing commercial presence, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Atul Malhotra’s story is at the other end of the spectrum yet is no less enduring. The son of Meenu Malhotra, who moved from India to Newcastle as a teenager and later founded property, leisure and care sector operator Malhotra Group, Atul’s tale highlights the fortitude needed to not only gain a foothold in the marketplace but navigate further stepping stones to success.
A united front can deliver tangible difference.
We need look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic – if indeed we’ve looked anywhere else over the past year – to see the impact unity can bring, from ensuring the welfare of loved ones to keeping the commercial environment moving.
And it’s a theme reflected in our cover story with Fenwick chief executive John Edgar.
Walk around the firm’s Newcastle department store and you quickly realise not a thing stands out of place.
Such meticulousness is, of course, no accident, but the result of a close-knit team’s endeavours to re-launch the outlet following its imposed trading hiatus.
John champions their efforts, while also revealing some exciting plans for the company’s Northumberland Street base.
Wiith more than a year having now passed since the UK first entered COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the landscape is beginning – thankfully – to show signs of positivity. The vaccine rollout is delivering new energy to a nation left exhausted by remote working, home schooling and the long-term shutdown of leisure activities – not to mention the stresses of furlough and job losses – as the country enters the first days of spring. It puts me in mind of a phrase that has really entered parlance during the last 12 months – ‘hitting the reset button’. Coined to refer to the changes both companies and individuals have undergone as a result of the pandemic, be they operational activities or new personal goals, it feels like, as a country, we’re ready to press the plunger and engage with 2021 in a way we could never do with 2020.
At North East Times are all about championing the region’s innovative and game-changing spirit. Such a philosophy has always been – and will remain – the bedrock of our magazine, and this month’s edition is no different, turning the focus to the organisations and people making a crucial impact not just to the North East, but to national and international markets too. They include Billingham’s FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, which gained headlines aplenty last month for its work with Novovax to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine that could inoculate tens of millions of people. Sticking with the theme of innovation, we also focus on CellulaREvolution, the Newcastle Helix-based firm behind work on cultured meat technology that is primed to revolutionise the food industry and dinner tables.
This month we speak to Natalie Ibu, Northern Stage’s new artistic director and joint chief executive, and learn how the Newcastle-based theatre company is shifting with the times digitally to continue entertaining audiences. Staying on the theme of alternative methods to deliver an accustomed service, we mark National Apprenticeship Week – by highlighting how, despite changes to learning in the classroom and on site, education providers and companies are still nurturing the next generation. Taking that point further, we speak to Bill Scott, co-founder of Wilton Universal Group, who tells us why an apprenticeship leaves you set for life. We also look at change in the automotive sector and the growing momentum behind a new green revolution, which is being led in no small part by Consett-based Elmtronics.
This month’s magazine looks at opportunities for the region’s business community and highlights significant investment deals and development plans that all stand ready to make a decisive impression on the North East. We speak to Stephen Waddington, a man with extensive media and communications sector experience, to track his career journey and look further into why 2021 represents a good time for businesses to reset and thrive. Tackling the theme of growth, we speak to Coatsink chief executive and co-founder Tom Beardsmore. And, we also champion the spirit, drive and innovation of the region’s businesspeople in our Impact List, which acknowledges the determination of individuals to adapt and thrive despite such unprecedented times. And much more!