While arguably better than 2020, this year has no doubt remained a challenge for businesses across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire due to the pandemic.
Organisations of all shapes and sizes have yet again been forced to adapt to the ever-changing ‘new normal’ leading to some firms having to make difficult decisions. But it is clear that many businesses chose to look forward in 2021, pushing on with their growth plans and committing to investing in their futures.
Here Business Editor Laura Watson looks back on some of the biggest business stories from the past 12 months…
1. New £20 million Marriott hotel opens in North Staffordshire
Around 20 jobs were created when a new £20 million Marriott hotel officially launched in North Staffordshire.
Courtyard by Marriott opened at the Keele University Science and Innovation Park in February.
The hotel boasts 150 bedrooms, the Scholars Restaurant and Bar, a coffee shop, meeting rooms and a fitness suite.
2. St Modwen confirms plans to sell huge visitor attraction in Staffordshire
Also in February, the news broke that developer St Modwen was planning to sell-off the Trentham Estate after 30 years of owning the attraction.
The company confirmed that it was looking to sell the Stone Road attraction as part of a strategy to offload up to £200 million worth of assets by 2023.
Just months later, St Modwen was sold to US private equity and investment firm Blackstone in a deal worth £1.2 billion, and the Trentham Estate underwent a rebrand which saw it change its name to just ‘Trentham’.
3. JCB lands biggest ever UK order for 2,100 machines
In March, digger giant JCB secured a record £65 million order for 2,100 machines.
The Rocester-based manufacturer won its ‘biggest ever order from a UK customer’ – – Sunbelt Rentals UK.
The equipment rental company invested in JCB Loadall telescopic handlers, mini and midi excavators, site dumpers, tracked excavators and rough terrain fork lifts as well as 350 JCB access platforms – all manufactured at JCB’s Staffordshire factories.
4. Two Staffordshire accountancy firms join forces
Accountancy firm Mitten Clarke joined forces with fellow accountancy practice DJH in March.
The merger saw the two firms become DJH Mitten Clarke, making it one of the UK’s top accountancy firms.
And the deal was the start of a busy year for the firm which went on to join forces with Chester-based Morris & Co and acquire Lloyd Piggott, in Manchester, in April and July respectively.
5. Beswicks Legal marks centenary with move to new office
Law firm Beswicks Legal marked 100 years in business with a move to new offices right off the A500.
The firm moved out of its former base at Festival Park to new offices in Campbell Road, Stoke, in April.
Managing partner Nick Phillips described it as a ‘really exciting move’ for the company.
6. New McArthurGlen West Midlands designer outlet opens in Staffordshire
The £160 million outlet opened as the country re-emerged following months of lockdown.
The shopping village, based near Cannock, attracted huge queues on its first day in April.
The attraction, which boasts big-name brands including Kurt Geiger, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, has been likened to Cheshire Oaks.
7. Stoke-on-Tent and Staffordshire LEP announces new CEO
The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) appointed Anne Boyd as its CEO in April.
Since taking up the role, Anne has been focusing on economic growth and has been supporting the LEP with its post-covid objectives.
8. Stoke-on-Trent industrial estate snapped up
Also in April, Network Space snapped up a huge industrial estate in Stoke-on-Trent in a £6.7 million deal.
The commercial property developer acquired Newfield Industrial Estate from Hanley-based Sandyford Properties as part of a hat-trick of acquisitions.
The Tunstall estate is home to more than a dozen businesses including Grenville Engineering, Alsager Roofing (Cheshire) and live music venue Eleven.
9. IAE to create 50 new jobs with £15 million HQ expansion
In May, IAE started work to expand its 38-acre headquarters.
The company – which manufactures livestock handling equipment, equestrian stabling, steel fencing and shelters – embarked on plans to build two new warehouses and a visitor centre at its Adderley Green base.
When the project is complete early next year, all of IAE’s 450 staff will be brought onto on site at Mossfield Road.
10. 500 Home Office jobs to be created in Stoke-on-Trent
Home Secretary Priti Patel made a huge announcement in May, revealing how more than 500 Government jobs will be created in Stoke-on-Trent over the next five years.
The announcement detailed how the Home Office will open an Immigration Caseworking Innovation Centre in the city, initially creating 50 new case worker jobs and 200 jobs within an asylum co-ordination hub.
It added that around 560 new jobs would be created by 2025 as the centre expanded, with roles to include operational IT, policy and corporate functions positions.
11. Woolcool boss among West Midlands business leaders recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours
The managing director of eco-packaging firm Woolcool was awarded an MBE for services to manufacturing and the environment in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June.
Josie Morris leads a 50-strong team at the Stone-based firm, which produces sustainable temperature-controlled packaging used in the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.
12. 250 jobs as Novus reveals ambitious growth plan
Also in June, Novus Property Solutions revealed plans to create 250 new jobs in the next five years as part of an ambitious growth plan.
The national maintenance and construction contractor, whose headquarters are in Stoke-on-Trent, told how it wants to have a 1,000-strong workforce and a turnover of more than £250 million by 2026.
And the business – which appointed a new CEO in July – is well on track to achieve its target after winning £23 million of new business in August and September and securing its biggest contract of the year in November.
13. Alpha Manufacturing breaks ground on new £4 million site
Work officially started on the company’s new 35,000 sq ft facility at Beacon Park, in Stafford, in June.
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The new warehouse – which is expected to created 30 new jobs – will be home to Alpha Manufacturing Chemical Technologies.
14. £18.2 million investment puts Midlands firmly on the map for advanced ceramics
The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG) secured £18.27 million in Government funding in July.
The MICG was awarded the cash from the UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund which will be used to create a world-leading industrial and academic research and development programme over the next four years.
Following on from that, MICG member Lucideon, which is based in Penkhull, signed a lease on the former Renishaw factory, in Stone, to help kickstart the collaborative project.
15. 550 jobs at risk as 2 Sisters Food Group announces plans to close Staffordshire biscuit factory
More than 550 jobs were put at risk at Staffordshire’s biggest biscuit factory in September when 2 Sisters Food Group revealed it was considering closing it down.
The company launched a consultation with staff at Elkes Biscuits – formerly Fox’s Biscuits – in Uttoxeter over its plans to close the ‘significantly loss-making’ factory.
The consultation is ongoing until March 2022.
16 Genr8 unveils detailed plans for new co-working space at Smithfield development
Developer Genr8 revealed plans for a new co-working facility in the city centre in September.
Smithfield Works is being developed in Hanley as part of the wider Smithfield scheme.
The facility, which is scheduled for completion in February 2022, will boast hot desks, meeting rooms, private suites, ‘Zoom booths’ and presentation areas, for growing businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
17. UK manufacturer opens EU Base to help it overcome Brexit complications
UK manufacturer and distributor Easy Composites Group, which manufacturers and distributes materials and equipment for advanced composites, launched a base in Rijen in the Netherlands in October.
The Park Hall Business Village firm says the move will help to overcome delays and complications following Brexit and enable it to serve European customers ‘better than ever.’
18. Staffordshire pub company’s newest venue opens
More than 65 new jobs were created as the Parogon Group’s long-awaited new restaurant finally opened.
The pub company welcomed the first customers to The Broughton, near Betley, in October, after various delays including the Covid-19 pandemic.
The venue joins Parogon’s growing list of venues which already include The Orange Tree, in Newcastle, The Wayfarer in Stone and Willow in Trentham.
19. More than 700 jobs created as new £90 million ASOS fulfilment centre opens
Online fashion brand ASOS officially opened its new Staffordshire warehouse in November.
The company announced it was opening a new £90 million fulfilment centre, on Fradley Park in Lichfield, at the start of the year.
More than 700 jobs were created with the opening but that number is expected to rise to 2,000 over the next three years.
20. Browns Distribution unveils plans to build new HQ
And later that month, Browns Distribution unveiled £8 million plans to build a brand new headquarters just 300m away from its existing base.
The haulage firm says it has grown considerably over the past few years and now needs to construct a huge new distribution centre, and a 100 space car park, on a huge piece of land in Tunstall.
Work has already started on the new building and is expected to be finished by August 2022.
21. Wrights sold in huge deal ending 96 years of history
In December, pastry giant Wrights was taken over by The Compleat Food Group in an undisclosed deal.
The company, which has more than 600 employees, had been family owned for almost 100 years after being launched by Jack and Lizzie Wright in 1926.
But the acquisition means it is now part of The Compleat Food Group’s pastry division.
It is not known what – if any – effect the acquisition will have on the future of the company’s Crewe headquarters and its 15 shops.
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