As Wearside businesses emerge to deal with the carnage left by Covid, we asked businesses big and small whether they could be positive about the longer-term prospects for the local economy. Here’s what they had to say…

John Mowbray OBE, chairman at University of Sunderland

This will be different for everyone after a devastating time – some have managed through the lockdown and others haven’t been able to.

There is however an opportunity to push the reset button and look at how we do things.

I think everyone has been surprised at how good the video technology has been for meetings, social events etc and particularly business communications – it has been used in recruitment with people working for people they’ve not met!

Those working from home have been in many cases more productive even whilst looking after children.

Different marketing techniques have helped some during the lockdown and that will continue.

New ways of working can help business manage costs and we do need flexibility as we begin working out where-9 to 5 has gone.

A final thought, but-those living and working with business in London, I think, are envying what we’ve had in the North East during this time, it’s time to sell ourselves but still, stay safe!

Julie Charlton, relationship manager for Sunderland and Durham, North East Chamber of Commerce

We are a historically strong, regional business community which supports each other.

On Wearside our companies have overcome major recessions and loss of employers such as Vaux, the shipyards and mines yet still created vibrant businesses.

The digital sector is growing with a number of fantastic companies in the Software Centre in particular.

There are challenges ahead but the Chamber is supporting people to not just survive but thrive and we will continue to campaign to get Government support where our region needs it.

David Marchbanks, insurance broker, Elliott Westland Insurance, Houghton

So far, the carnage caused by Covid-19 has understandably dominated the headlines but there are other, more positive, sides to this crisis too.

We’ve seen quite a few businesses go under because of the pandemic but equally, we’ve also seen quite a few new businesses starting up – often with would-be innovators and entrepreneurs finally taking that big decision to set up on their own.

We’ve also seen a lot of companies adapting and changing to fit the times, so we’ve seen many variations in insurance conditions – for example, restaurants now becoming takeaways while they wait for the restaurant to re-open again.

New businesses starting and older ones adapting across Wearside would suggest there’s every chance that in the next year to 18 months the local economy will bounce back.

Tony Winspear, owner, Winspear Painting and Decorating services, Hetton-le-Hole

As someone with a long-established painting and decoration business, I’m very positive about the future now we’re able to get back to work.

We could do nothing in lockdown but people will always need painting and decoration, so the work is always there – it was just a case of getting through the last few months.

It’s crazy busy at the moment as everyone wants the job doing yesterday that they would have had done before the lockdown hit but I think things look healthy in the long-term too for local businesses like mine where the demand might go through cycles but is always there.

If we avoid a serious second wave of the pandemic, then I think 12-18 months from now, trades like mine will be doing just as well on Wearside as they were before Covid_19 hit.

Graeme Anderson, co-editor, Wear Business magazine

While the focus in the short-term will be on the legacy of Covid_19, the eventual shape of Brexit and the future of the car industry in the region, the longer-term prospects for Wearside are surely brighter – particularly if all-important Government support can be secured for that promised ‘levelling-up’ post Brexit!

The Wearside workforce has shown its resilience and innovation through numerous recessions and economic crises and I don’t think this will be any different.

The region has less reliance on heavy industries than previously and has thriving sectors which are going to prosper in the new era – including areas like digital, medical and pharmaceutical.

I also think local and regional governmental agencies and numerous NGO’s have played a crucial part in supporting businesses through this crisis and that will be to the eventual economic benefit of the region over the course of the next year to 18 months.

 

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