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Optimism rising in key North East sector, delegates told


ENGINEERING firms and consultants from across the region have been urged to take advantage of improving conditions in the sector by working more closely with local enterprise partnerships and embracing low carbon economy and transport opportunities.

Influential business leaders gathered in Newcastle this week to mark the centenary of The Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

Among the top speakers at the event was ACE’s regional chairman David Hodgson, who is also managing director of Darlington-based AMP Consultants.

Joining him was Keith Howells, national chairman of the ACE and chairman of Mott MacDonald, and Mark Wilson transport adviser to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP).

Delegates at the event at St James’ Park were told that the climate for infrastructural development is improving and optimism is rising within the sector – with new opportunities emerging in several areas.

Keith Howells said: “Given the recent tough times of the last five years, the evidence is that things are starting to move.

“The construction industry strategy being developed by the Government recognises construction as a key enabler in the broader economy in its role in developing and attaining the assets that we need to function as a society and as an economy.

“Given the level of public debt we know the Government doesn’t have much money available but private money is available for the right kind of projects that are adequately prepared.

“Getting projects to the point where they are bankable, have planning consent and are ready to start construction is the bread and butter of our industry. That’s why we must engage more closely with and support our local enterprise partnerships by developing key projects and bringing them forward towards to implementation.”

Howells also highlighted the many opportunities for ACE’s members in the low carbon economy and as a result of the drive for more sustainable projects.

David Hodgson was similarly upbeat about the future of the industry, telling delegates: “As consultants in engineering we have many challenges to come and in the North East there are still challenging times ahead.

“But there is a lot of optimism in the regions, including here in the North East. There’s also cause for optimism here because of the great investment in infrastructure recently, such as the new Tyne Tunnel and improvements to the A19.”

Meanwhile, Mark Wilson outlined the role of the NELEP in driving new opportunities and improving transport infrastructure – both of which consultant engineers can take advantage of.

He outlined key findings of the North East Economic Review, including those relevant to ACE members such as the need to improve infrastructure, heavy rail networks, public transport and air and sea links.

David Hodgson has been regional chairman of ACE for just over a year. The ACE, in its 100th year, plays an important role in lobbying government on policy relevant to ACE members as well as assisting SMEs in the sector with day-to-day issues they may experience in running their business.

His company, AMP, provides structural designs to built environment projects in a number of key markets including health, education, offices, retail, industrial, residential and the oil and gas sector.

For more information about ACE visit: www.acenet.co.uk

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