Star to lead Suffolk's fightback

DEFIANT Suffolk is battling to beat the economic blues and The Evening Star has launched a determined campaign to bring you the positive stories from around the area.

Lizzie Parry

DEFIANT Suffolk is battling to beat the economic blues and The Evening Star has launched a determined campaign to bring you the positive stories from around the area.

While the county is not immune from the pinch of the global recession, civic and business leaders believe we stand well-placed to ride through the financial storm.

And the Star's Fight Back campaign will be highlighting the many reasons to be optimistic and championing our battling businesses and institutions.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole welcomed our Fight Back bid - and looked forward to a bright and prosperous future.

He said: “I absolutely support this campaign.

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“At a time when we are feeling the wash from the global financial situation we need to highlight the positives in our area to ensure we give as much support as we can to our businesses.”

Suffolk is poised to usher in a series of new, large-scale developments - worth around �275million - including phase two of University Campus Suffolk, the unveiling of the multi-million pound Suffolk New College, and further Waterfront regeneration in Ipswich.

Meanwhile, Great Blakenham will soon be home to state-of-the-art winter sports complex SnOasis.

Mr Mole said: “I would hope the people behind SnOasis will be able to meet their promised start on the project, which will create hundreds, if not thousands of opportunities for people to work locally.”

A recent study aimed at identifying which towns and cities were best-placed to weather the economic downturn found that Ipswich had a number of strengths which would ensure it avoided the worst effects.

Meanwhile, Paul Clement, director of Ipswich Central, said he was encouraged that the likes of Axa and Willis had pledged their long-term futures to the town.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce added his support to the campaign, urging businesses to remain creative in their bid to battle the economic climate.

“I am fully behind your campaign. Let's show that businesses in this county and the county town are being creative in terms of carrying out business in this slow down - we certainly seem to be performing better than other regions.”

- Tell us your recession-defying stories - Write to Fight Back, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

IPSWICH'S leading business representative today said that with the right attitude the town could be well placed to emerge from the downturn in a strong position.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central said the emphasis had to be on the long term future of the town as well as the immediate fight against the credit crunch.

“At the moment this is the toughest economic situation I have ever seen in Ipswich but remember it is how a town like Ipswich reacts. If we sit back and do nothing we will be swamped but if we act to help local business and develop a long term plan the town will emerge well.

“Of course firstly we have got to fight the recession, making sure we are competitive and punching above our weight by supporting businesses we already have in the town. We all need to be very supportive of what their needs are.

“But secondly we must keep thinking about the longer term, decades ahead, and look at what sort of place Ipswich will be, what the town will stand for, how it will market itself and the unique position it will have in the region.”

Despite the closure of many shops on the high street Mr Clement highlighted the many businesses prospering in the face of the current situation.

“The irony is there are a lot of businesses doing well,” he added. “Some high street names are doing incredibly well, reporting good results.

“And there are some independents that, unlike high street names, have not had to resort to sales because they are the point of difference, only found in the town and their customer base can maintain itself well.

“There are also a lot of developments happening recession-irrespective on the waterfront and at the university.”

LOW prices and top quality produce is at the heart of Ipswich market's approach to tackling the recession.

Fish monger Mike Young said trade had been brisk in recent months, as customers took advantage of the excellent produce on offer on the Cornhill.

Mr Young, 62, who runs his business with wife Lucy, said: “For a number of years, we have decided to go along the route of offering value for money.

“Our prices are extremely low and so are our margins, but we sell a lot.

“The more our customers worry about their money, the more likely it is they will come into the town centre and buy from us.

“We are confident we will come through this because, in a way, it is benefitting our business.”

Mr Young has traded at Ipswich market since 1982 and enjoys a loyal customer base.

He said: “We are now serving the children of the customers that came to us when we first started.”

UNIVERSITY Campus Suffolk (UCS) has received a major boost after borough chiefs sanctioned a �910,000 contribution towards the second phase of the development.

Having already donated land worth �9m to UCS, Ipswich Borough Council's executive agreed to the move despite expressing concerns over the size of the sum requested.

The cash will be made available in two instalments this year and next and will be put towards the first stage of phase two, a Waterfront building containing state-of-the-art sports science, science, and health-related facilities.

Finance chief, councillor John Carnall, said the decision to contribute the cash had been tough given the current financial climate, but he highlighted the university's importance to the town, educationally and economically.

“In 2005, when we contributed land valued at �9m for the university, there was no mention that Ipswich Borough Council would be expected to make additional monies available for any future development, especially when this second phase is to be constructed on the land we donated,” he said.

“As a country, we are facing serious economic challenges over the coming years and in Ipswich our capital receipts will suffer because land values have fallen away.

“At the same time, pressures on our budgets are increasing, with falling revenues as the recession takes hold.

“This inevitably means that, in order to meet this unexpected demand, we have had to make difficult choices between funding the university and, for example, building more affordable housing.

“We have always been fully supportive of the improved educational opportunities the university offers and the debate at executive was lively and thoughtful.”

Mr Carnall said any future requests from UCS for extra cash would be carefully scrutinised, although funding decisions could be taken by a new council created as a result of the current Local Government Review.

Bob Anderson, UCS chief Executive and pro vice chancellor, said: “This funding means that we can continue to move forward with the developments of phase two and be able to provide our students with high quality academic and social facilities.”

Ipswich's Labour MP Chris Mole said UCS would provide a real benefit for the future of Ipswich, retaining graduates for local businesses and boosting the construction industry at a time when fewer houses were being built.

- Do you think the council's UCS contribution is a good use of tax-payers' money? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

GRANTS worth �20,000 are to be awarded to boost and promote local businesses in Ipswich town centre as part of an annual scheme to be launched this month.

The Independent Business Grant Scheme 'Improve' will support traders in realising new ideas to attract more people to their shop and part of town.

The grants, which range from �500 to �5,000, aim to improve the profile of the successful retailers. Last year 13 businesses were awarded money for work ranging from improved shop fronts, blinds, murals and fascias to new paving schemes.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central said: “The response to this scheme from the town centre's independent businesses was really pleasing last year and we look forward to receiving many more applications this year.

“The �20,000 is there to be spent and I would encourage all eligible businesses to think about how they could use a cash injection to enhance their business and the trading area. I am very much looking forward to the judges' final selections and seeing the schemes implemented.”

Future and ongoing developments in Suffolk:

- Suffolk University Campus Suffolk phase II in Duke Street - construction commenced (�50 million)

- Suffolk New College under construction (�75million) opening in September 2009.

- SWISS sixth form centre project (�50million-plus) under construction opening September 2010.

- Westgate centre (�50million)

- Tarmac operation relocation from Island site to Cliff Quay

- Salthouse Harbour Hotel extension

- Mediterranean Shipping Company has opened new high class facility (250 staff capacity).

- Glasswells, Ranelagh Road, furniture store - now open.

- New pedestrian bridge for Fairview development, Ranelagh Road.

- New flood gates installed at Ipswich Waterfront lock gate entrance. Funding also in place for flood defence system - �50million

- Arlingtons Restaurant opened in Museum Street.

- Tesco has bought the old B&Q site in Grafton Way.

- Continued development of Ipswich Waterfront with the Regatta Quay and Mill developments nearing completion.

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