Suffolk has been revealed as a "hotbed for enterprise" in a new report.

Grant Thornton's annual survey of Suffolk-based businesses shows the turnover of the top 100 up 15.8% to £6.7bn.

The 100 featured in the accountancy giant's Suffolk Ltd report generated a whopping £678.9m of profit - a rise of 12.4%. The top firms also increased their workforces by 2.1% to stand at 36,476.

The accountants said the diverse nature of the businesses helped to build resilience - amid rising interest rates and inflationary pressure.

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The report – produced in conjunction with top law firm Birketts - uses the most recently publicly available accounts as of October 16, 2023.

The top spot - for the sixth year in a row - went to Newmarket trucking company Turners (Soham) Holdings which saw revenue growth of 15.22%. 

The others to make it into the top five were Felixstowe logistics firm Maritime Transport, Ipswich retail chain East of England Co-op, Newmarket steel processors AJN Steelstock and Ipswich-based car dealership John Grose Group.

Consumer products businesses made up 39 of the 100 featured, generating £3.2bn in sales. Next came real estate and construction (£1.2bn), services (£1.1bn) and industrial products (£828m) - showing a broad base of sectors.

Turnovers ranged from £598.2m to £18.9m and combined profits soared - with EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation), up 12.4% to £678.9m.

Employees of the top 100 enjoyed average salaries up 5.1% to £33.9k during the period - putting raises below inflation.

Tim Taylor, Practice Leader for Grant Thornton UK LLP in East Anglia, described the results as "excellent" - and all the more remarkable given the significant challenges faced by the UK economy during the period.

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"In terms of revenue growth, we've seen some very strong numbers - in part this is a very welcome return to normal revenue levels for some businesses for whom trading was previously significantly impacted by the pandemic," he said.

“Suffolk has a well-earned reputation as a hotbed for enterprise. That is reflected in the Suffolk Limited report, which serves as a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the 100 most successful private companies in the county.

"These firms act as beacons to the wider business community, offering inspiration and encouragement regarding what can be achieved, even in the most challenging of circumstances."

The county's businesses were putting measures in place to help them transition to a zero-carbon economy through sustainable food production and clean energy generation, he added.

Meanwhile, East Anglia was at the forefront of the Southern North Sea transition and developing "a strong presence" in bioenergy, hydrogen, and energy storage industries.

Alexandra Nelson, partner in the Ipswich corporate team at Birketts, said it was "really encouraging" to see Suffolk's top companies showing such resilience.

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“Our county’s top 100 face an incredibly testing trading environment, with increases in base costs and interest rates putting increased pressure on margins. 

"However, Suffolk is a county of opportunity, with significant investment being made in our transport infrastructure improving links from our ports to the wider economy and largescale projects, such as the development of Sizewell C, bringing with it job creation and economic advantages for our local economy. 

"The innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our country’s top companies gives us confidence that they will be well prepared to weather the challenges and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.”

Among the companies featured was One Group Construction of Ipswich which came in at number eight. Its group boss, Richard Neall said the construction industry faced a host of challenges but his business reacted quickly to the changing situation.

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"Construction material cost inflation, the retail sector boom and then collapse, and then the effects of Brexit on our logistics business have been just a few of our challenges," he said.

"In terms of strategy, the impact has been simple. We are now even more agile in our decision making and content to change direction quickly or even U-turn when the next craziness lands."

Alex Bird, finance chief at plant hire business Tru7 at Kesgrave, Ipswich, which came 20th in the list, said the county's resilience was founded on companies with deep roots.

"Suffolk has a lot of privately owned companies that have been in the same families for generations and this helps create trust between these businesses.

"There are many long standing multigenerational relationships between firms.  This helps to  facilitate the sharing of knowledge and enables them to supportive each other and their needs.

Suffolk can be quite prudent in its business practices, with strong balance sheets and good liquidity which leads to long term thinking. This means Suffolk business often work on long-term planning horizons which provides a great competitive advantage." 

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James Buckle of farm-based business Heathpatch (which came in at 26) of Semer, near Ipswich, said the group had experienced significant growth in its renewable energy business while agricultural output has increased dramatically.

"However other areas of our business have really suffered, " he said. "Our brewery has been impacted by Covid, the cost base in our hospitality business has spiraled out of control, and selling capital equipment has not been easy," he said.

"Fortunately at times like this we can see the benefit of a diverse business."

Bacton Transport finance boss Andy Stevenson said the county was well-placed geographically to thrive - and would benefit from new nuclear. Bacton came 91st in the list.

"We have Europe’s biggest port on our doorstep and the investment in infrastructure along the A14 is a massive opportunity.

"The investment in Sizewell in the coming years is going to be a huge. Not just for Bacton, but for all businesses in Suffolk and the East of England."

International companies operating in Suffolk were also celebrated in the report.

Twenty-five top firms were listed with the top five ranked as Bury St Edmunds pubs and brewery firm Greene King,  facilities management firm OCS (Atalian Servest) of Bury St Edmunds, animal feed operation Forfarmers at Rougham and port owners Hutchison Ports Europe, which owns the Port of Felixstowe.