Suffolk businesses remain optimistic

BUSINESSES in Suffolk are starting to feel the pinch from the world financial crisis - but experts say the county is geared up to deal with the situation.

BUSINESSES in Suffolk are starting to feel the pinch from the world financial crisis - but experts say the county is geared up to deal with the situation.

Two of the biggest employers in Ipswich, AXA and Willis - who between them employ around 2,500 people in the town - both say so far they have suffered no ill effects from the downturn in the economy.

The banking industry is taking the brunt of the problems, though with petrol, gas and electricity prices still high, and food costs still rising, everyone's pockets are being hit.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “Clearly the business community of Suffolk is feeling the pinch more and more and of course we cannot hide from what we are hearing and seeing on the world stage, as we begin to reach the bottom of this slow down in the economy, the first after 15 years of year on year growth.

“That said, Suffolk is in a region that is performing better than many others in the UK and has the uniqueness of much positive activity still to come.”

Many businesses had a strong export order book, regeneration in Ipswich, Bury and Lowestoft was continuing, the new university, development of Adastral Park, and growth of Felixstowe Port, are helping to underpin the economy better than in many other regions.

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Mr Dugmore said the worsening financial turmoil heightened the need for early action and an interest rate cut in October should be considered.

Steve Hoffman, AXA group head of external communications, said the crisis had so far had no impact on the company's UK operations.

“We are focussed on delivering and continuing to improve our services to customers and as far as our Ipswich operation is concerned it is business as usual,” he said.

Ian Gale, chief executive officer of Willis Global Service Centres in Ipswich, said: “So far there has been some isolated - yet significant - direct exposure for the insurance industry to the sub-prime crisis.

“And there are the indirect effects, particularly from the fallout in stock markets globally, and from insurers having these loans in their investment portfolios. But at the end of the day, everyone has to buy what we've got to sell.”

How is the credit crunch affecting you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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