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Supporting business growth in County Durham

Hazel Sykes and Guy Bashford, two experienced members of Business Durham’s business engagement team, share their career backgrounds and shed light on the extensive support they provide to businesses in County Durham.


Hazel Sykes, a seasoned professional in HR and business development, brings her extensive experience and a proven track record of forging and nurturing vital relationships to propel businesses forward in her role as business engagement and account manager. 

With a focus on skills and businesses in the south of the county, Hazel is committed to providing unparalleled support to local companies. 

Her career spans three decades, during which she has attracted inward investment and provided ongoing support to indigenous companies. 

Leveraging her HR expertise and business engagement experience, she consistently delivers creative solutions to drive business growth. 

Hazel secured her current role at Business Durham by aligning her plans to permanently relocate to the North East with an opportunity that arose. 

She is now a key point of contact for businesses in south Durham, collaborating closely with companies from areas such as Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle. 

Initially serving as a net-zero lead, Hazel transitioned into skills development and is presently Business Durham’s skills lead for the county.  

Hazel heads the collaboration with the North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT) on behalf of Business Durham.  

A partnership between further education colleges, led locally by New College Durham, universities and businesses, NEIoT is working to address the common concern of finding skilled talent. 

The partnership aims to develop high-level technical skills and qualifications that align with employers’ current and future needs. 

The support also extends to informing schoolchildren, teachers and parents about the range of remarkable businesses in the area and the diverse career opportunities available.

Guy Bashford, Business Durham’s business engagement and account manager for the east of the county, brings nearly two decades’ experience in offering advice and support. 

He has advised entrepreneurs and businesses on various issues, including finance, business strategy, market opportunities and environmental performance. 

Guy’s extensive knowledge of the challenges businesses face, and the importance of having the right support in place, makes him a valuable asset for local businesses. 

In his previous role as a business engagement officer on the Durham Business Opportunities Programme, Guy helped local SMEs identify and access market opportunities and connect with business support initiatives. 

He recently took on the role of business engagement and account manager for the east Durham area, working with larger business clients who face more complex challenges. 

Guy is also Business Durham’s low-carbon lead, with responsibilities that include assisting businesses in their net-zero journey by promoting sustainable practices and helping them reduce their carbon footprint. 

He collaborates with the council’s low-carbon team to develop practical energy efficiency guides and identify renewable energy solutions for businesses.

Both Hazel and Guy emphasise the tailored support they provide to local businesses. 

Business Durham’s approach revolves around understanding the unique challenges faced by each company and delving deep into their needs and requirements. 

By doing so, they can offer comprehensive assistance, whether it’s helping businesses with expansion, venturing into new markets, attracting and retaining top-tier talent or navigating challenging times. 

They recognise that nurturing existing businesses is just as crucial as attracting new investment to the area. 

Business Durham’s support is adaptable to the ever-changing needs of businesses; it actively listens to businesses, recognising that each one faces unique circumstances. 

By staying informed and engaged, they ensure they are a reliable point of contact, ready to provide timely assistance and match businesses with relevant support programmes and resources. 

Hazel and Guy’s work has yielded success stories, such as helping Bishops Beds win contracts worth millions of pounds, assisting Central Doorset Manufacturing in expanding its business and workforce, and supporting Clear Climate in diversifying its services while contributing to the environment.

County Durham offers a wealth of benefits for businesses. 

Its excellent connectivity, diverse commercial properties, highly-skilled workforce from local colleges and universities, and thriving business community provide fertile ground for growth and expansion. 

The ongoing regeneration and development across the county further enhances the local economy and creates new opportunities.

Business Durham’s support and expertise offers significant advantages to businesses in County Durham. 

By working with its team, businesses gain access to a wealth of knowledge, resources and partnerships. 

They receive tailored guidance on funding opportunities, market expansion, sustainable practices and innovative strategies. 

Businesses can thrive with the reassurance that they have a reliable partner to navigate the landscape and accelerate their growth journey.

In summary, Business Durham’s business engagement team combines decades of experience, a deep understanding of business challenges and a commitment to providing tailored support. 

Its expertise and guidance empowers local businesses to grow, succeed and contribute to the vibrant business landscape of County Durham.