Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF

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Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF

Life after
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
Welcome                                                                             03

                                                                                                                                                                                                  This edition was meant to                 face of extraordinary pressures.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  examine the measures laid                    The grim statistics worsened by
                                                                                                                                                                                                  out in the Spring Budget by a             the day. Workers and businesses
                                                                                                                                                                                                  chancellor who had only just              across the land have been left in a
                                                                                                                                                                                                  found himself in the job.                 state of limbo, weighed down with
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Budget was big, meaningful        the uncertainty of what life would
                                                                                                                                                                                                  news at the time with very real           bring. On the face of it, the picture
                                                                                                                                                                                                  consequences for businesses. It           could barely be bleaker.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  seems like a lifetime ago now, but           But delve below the surface
                                                                                                                                                                                                  it was only in March.                     and little glimmers of light could
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The storm clouds in the form          be found in an otherwise dark and
                                                                                                                                                                               By HENRY           of the virus were gathering,              frightening world.
                                                                                                                                                                              CARPENTER           however, and in the space of only            Stories of selflessness and
                                                                                            Aluminium casting & CNC machining    Plastic injection moulding                                       a few days, as the enormity of the        contributions to the cause have
  COLLABORATING TOWARDS                                                                     Contract electronics manufacturing
                                                                                            Electrical & electronic assembly
                                                                                                                                 Industrial design
                                                                                                                                 Pressings, welding & assembly
                                                                                                                                                                                                  pandemic’s effects began to sink
                                                                                                                                                                                                  in, the country – the world – went
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            reverberated against a welcome
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            silence of greed, egotism and
                                                                                                                                                                                                  into collective shock. And with           petty politics. Businesses large

  ELECTRIFICATION                                                                           Forging
                                                                                            High volume precision stamping
                                                                                            PCB manufacture
                                                                                                                                 Fluid Power
                                                                                                                                 Tube manipulation
                                                                                                                                 Engineering supplies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  it, the business world went into
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The hospitality industry was
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and small, as well as individuals,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            have been playing their part.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               A sense of resilience, of hope,
                                                                                                                                                                                                  the first casualty, as we were            of we’re-all-in-it-together solidarity
                                                                                                                                                                                                  instructed to avoid visiting bars,        has come to the fore. If you want
                                                                                                                                                                                                  pubs and restaurants, and they            to read positive words from some
                                                                                                                                                                 Editor                           were ordered to shut down. The            of the region’s industry leaders,
                                                                                                                                                                 HENRY CARPENTER                  lockdown was real, and suddenly           turn to our report on COVID-19
                                                                                                                                                               tumbleweed was blowing through            fallout.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  the world of business and                    We were also – and indeed are
  ONE SOLUTION, TEN                                                                                                                                              Editorial director               commerce. The chancellor was              – running a special supplement
  MANUFACTURING DISCIPLINES                                                                                                                                      CARL JONES                       back on our television screens            on life sciences in the region, as
  A single-source solution for helping
                                                                                                                                                              pledging a £330 billion fiscal            well as shining a light on some
                                                                                                                                                                                                  stimulus to keep the nation at            of the West Midlands’ many and
industry   move
         move   towards
              towards    electrification.
                       electrification.                                                                                                                          Design and layout
                                                                                                                                                                                                  work, if not actually working.            varied success stories. That we
                                                                                                                                                                 MICHELLE DALTON
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Those workers went home –             have been able to print at all is
  CONTACT US ABOUT Y0UR NEXT PROJECT.                                                                                                                            Business development             signing up to Zoom, House Party           down to the backing of some key
                                                                                                                                                                 manager/head of advertising      and the rest – by the millions,           supporters for which they have our
                                                                                                                                                                 MIKE MOLONEY                     while keeping one eye on the              immense thanks.
                                                                                                                                                               news, as the NHS staff and other             We can do this, has been the
                                                                                                                                                                                                  front-line workers battled tirelessly     battle cry. Yes, of course we can.
                                                                                                                                                                 General enquiries                to try to control the situation in the    And we will.
                                                     /mangroupuk         /companies/mangroupuk
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Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
Accountancy, Tax & Business                                                                                         05
Advice for Aspirational                                       23                          27                     55 contents
Business Owners                              ON THE COVER
                                             06 COVID-19
                                                How is the business
                                                                       LIFE SCIENCES
                                                                       SPECIAL | 30-45
                                                                                                   27 LoveBrum
                                                                       Some of the key figures        All the fun from the
                                                sector responding in   from this highly complex       Big Quiz fundraiser
                                                these unprecedented    world explain why the
                                                times?                                             63 Hedge House
                                                                       West Midlands deserves
                                                                       its reputation as a
                                                                                                      reception to mark
                                                                       national powerhouse in
                                                                                                      the launch of this
Helping you make better                                                the life sciences sector
                                                                       PLUS: We examine why
                                                                                                      luxury property
                                                                       it pays for employers to
decisions and increase                                                 look after the mental       COLUMNIST
                                                                       wellbeing of their staff
the speed and certainty                                                                            32 Graham Silk
                                                                                                      Reports on the
                                                                       FEATURES                       region’s state
of your progress.                                                      18 Power Minerals              of health
                                                                            The company which      47 Kim Leary
                                                                            has found the value       Three ways your
                                                                            of waste                  brand can power
                                                                       23 Yen Yau                     through the crisis
                                                                            Meet the director      48 Jon Griffin
                                                                            helping people            Looks back at the
                                                                            into the film-making      Chinese influence
                                                                            industry                  on Birmingham’s
                                                                       55 HausBots                    business community
                                                                            Learn all about the
FD Excellence Accountancy Firm of the Year                                  invention which may
                                                                            just be the next big
Tel: 0121 456 1613                                                          thing to come out
Email:                                                  of Digbeth

Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
06                       Coronavirus:                                         07
                         the fallout

health & lifeCOVID-19

                                                                                     & life sciences
                         Little can be predicted with any sort of certainty
                         on what lies ahead for business after the
                         The effects of coronavirus and the subsequent
                         lockdown will continue to be felt right across
                         the commercial spectrum for months, years and
                         probably decades.
                         We ask expert voices from some of the key
                         sectors in the region to offer their thoughts on
                         what the crisis might mean for their particular
                         industries, not just in the short term but looking
                         further ahead to the future as well.
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
“I don’t think that there is yet a ‘new
                                                                                                                                                                                               normal’, but I might dare to suggest that the
                                                                                                                                                                                               shock of the sudden disruption might see us
                                                                                                                                                                                                return to a more pre-2008 economic model
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       of local production.”

08                                                                                                       By David
                                                                                                         Chief executive of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           By Mark Smith
                                                                                                         UK Public Health                                                                                                                  director of
COVID-19 outlook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      COVID-19 outlook
                                                                                                         Register and chair
                                                                                                         of the West Midlands                                                                                                              engagement
                                                                                                         Health Technologies                                                                                                               at Aston
                                                                                                         Cluster                                                                                                                           University

                   These are sombre times. With self         products and services = drawing on           for our economy to be restored. In        As I write this, Aston University is       attitudes towards enterprise. We            there is an inherent lack of resilience.
                   isolation, a broken economy and           our assets to identify solutions and         health technologies, my aim is to         complying with the Government’s            are already adapting to a shifting              This is especially apparent
                   families losing loved ones to an          how to deploy them                           set up a Cluster Organisation that        guidelines and remains open for            economy with the state taking a more        when events cause countries to
                   invisible enemy, the future looks                 Immunisation and                     works with businesses to help them        business. We have swiftly managed          significant role in society. Although       deny trade and travel across their
                   bleak. But together, we will get          vaccination, providing protection            be more innovative, more productive       – like many other businesses – to          the temporary changes may be                borders. Europe, one of the most
                   through this and then we can start        against infection = develop products         and more competitive.                     use technology to allow our support        challenging to undo, they will not be       advanced global JIT markets, will
                   work on a better future.                  and services that are fit for purpose           Health is so much more that            of students and organisations to           impossible, and the reality is going to     need to learn the lessons from the
                      The world is changing because                  Capacity, organisations like the     hospitals and GP surgeries, more          continue, drawing on the massive           be that the Government will seek to         pandemic very quickly to ensure that
                   of this global pandemic, COVID-19         NHS need to be able to flex to meet          than doctors and nurses. It is more       dedication of our in-house ICT team.       restart the private sector economy as       it is much better prepared for future
                   (coronavirus). We are rapidly             demand = create innovation in both           than the NHS. For example, at the            Reaction from our clients has been      quickly as possible.                        turbulence when it occurs. Already
                   re-thinking the systems we live           supply and demand                            Public Health Register, I regulate the    very positive, and it is pleasing to see       They will do this by encouraging        my colleagues, such as Professor Ed
                   by – economy, education, health,                  Technology, the digital tools        UK public health workforce. Public        how the Birmingham business world          people to start and grow businesses,        Sweeney at the Aston Logistics and
                   technology, transport. When this          for all sectors and all communities          health workers work alongside             has rallied to support the current         creating a favourable taxation              Supply Chain Institute, are looking at
                   crisis is over, some things will return   = sharing expertise and knowledge            colleagues in national and local          ‘business as usual’ ethos.                 environment supporting the rapid            how those patterns will shift and how
                   to how they were before, but many         across the partnership to nurture            government, NHS and communities              Although universities can and are       growth of productive output. Sectors        to advise businesses.
                   are changed forever.                      innovation and deliver growth                to keep us safe and beat the virus.       assisting with vital work to counteract    will re-grow at different speeds,               The final change will be to how
                      I have been asked to set up a                  Enterprise, industries and           They are brave, they are strategic        the pandemic, their primary role is to     and aside from ICT services which           and where we work, and the skills
                   West Midlands Health Technologies         service providers capable of                 and, of necessity, they communicate       ensure a flow of qualified people that     will continue to surge, the personal        that we use while in work. The
                   Cluster. In our region we have the        meeting our region’s needs = make            clear and consistent health               will be so important to the recovery is    service economy may be the                  COVID-19 experience taught us all
                   science, the enterprise and the           West Midlands a great place to do            messages in their communities.            maintained.                                fastest to grow. This is because the        that we do need alternative places
                   precision engineering to make a           business                                        Pre-crisis the ‘prevention is better      One immediate challenge is to           experience of digitisation during the       to work. It also reminded us that we
                   success of it. I am impressed that the            Skills, attracting talent both       than cure’ message was possibly           ensure that the degrees awarded            lockdown will open pathways to new          could continue to work productively
                   automotive industry is helping make       within and to our region = West              not heeded as much as it should           this summer are fair and reflective of     consumer markets from an expanded           if we have the ICT – and digital skills
                   ventilators for the NHS. I am proud of            Midlands a great place to train,     have been. It will be different now. I    the talent of those coming through         demographic.                                required – to access and operate
                   the universities helping with research    work and live                                foresee public health will be a crucial   the system, giving employers                   In my university, the Aston Centre      the correct tools. We may, therefore,
                   and testing.                                      Transport, a critical part of our    component of our preparations             the confidence to recruit 2020             for Growth – under under the                see a shift to more telecommuting
                      As we see with the massive             infrastructure as we are now seeing =        for future readiness. Public health       graduates.                                 leadership of Professor Mark Hart –         and use of home or local touch-down
                   response to the call for NHS              5G underpinning a transformation of          can benefit just as much from the            We also know that we will need          has already anticipated this shift by       offices, as the work-life benefits of
                   volunteers and #clapforcarers,            services and connectivity                    work I am doing to set up the West        to offer extra support to the young        making support materials available          remote working stay with us.
                   support for health and social care           We are in this together. The              Midlands Health Technologies              people coming into our institutions to     now to help people having to pivot              As remote working skills become
                   services is higher than ever. A better    collaboration in our society now is          Cluster.                                  help them adjust to the needs of the       existing businesses as well as assist       more important, people will invest in
                   future demands greater investment in      something I want to tap into for how            The West Midlands is a great place     new economic landscape.                    those looking to create a new future        their personal digital development,
                   the resilience and the capacity of our    I envisage the Health Technologies           to live and work. We are creative and        Finally, the university needs to be     for themselves through enterprise.          bringing a resurgence of attendance
                   NHS and other public services.            Cluster will work. COVID-19 has              we are inventive. We are home to          a steadying influence in turbulent         For those businesses looking to shift       at West Midlands FE colleges and
                      A better future will be one where      impacted on every sector of our West         world-class businesses, universities      times, supporting growth potential         from product to service provision,          dedicated private training providers.
                   we keep today’s fighting spirit and       Midlands economy. Businesses need            and talent. I want to help our region     by applying our research expertise         Aston’s Advanced Service Group                  In closing, perhaps the big hope
                   turn it towards fighting the climate      support to make it through the worst,        thrive in a way that is fair and          to the practical problems our private      is already working on a range               I have is that the positive outcome
                   crisis and reducing poverty. We           and afterwards they must thrive              balanced.                                 and third-sector colleagues will face.     of services to help support their           from the pandemic will be in the
                   also have existing known threats to                                                                                                 I don’t think that there is yet a       transition.                                 attitude of the population at large,
                   tackle, such as meeting the needs                                                                                                ‘new normal’, but I might dare to              The second significant change will      that positive behaviours seen in the
                   of an ageing population and beating                                                                                              suggest that the shock of the sudden       be to the shape of international trade.     crisis are sustained, and that we
                   diseases related to lifestyle like                                                                                               disruption might see us return to a        It is unlikely that we will return to the   build a more collaborative, cohesive
                   obesity and diabetes.                     “Pre-crisis the ‘prevention is better than                                             more pre-2008 economic model of            global supply chain economy which           society that is better able to ride out
                      To be ready to meet these              cure’ message was possibly not heeded                                                  local production. There is no doubt        characterised the last two decades,         future storms.
                   challenges, we need:                                                                                                             that the world will recover after          perhaps much to the joy of the
                          Surveillance, identifying          as much as it should have been. It will be                                             the pandemic, but to expect past           climate change lobby who have seen
                   dangers early = identifying market                                                                                               behaviour to return would be wrong.        the impact that COVID-19 has had on
                                                             different now.”                                                                           I would like to suggest that the        pollution. While we can all appreciate
                          Testing, on a scale that meets                                                                                            business community will be changed         the efficiencies that just-in-time
                   the challenge = quantifying the need                                                                                             positively in three key ways.              practices provide, the pandemic has
                          Research, from invention to                                                                                                  The first significant change is in      proven that alongside these benefits,
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
“We know that the move to defer VAT                                                                                                                              “This is not the first global pandemic
                             payments was popular amongst our                                                                                                                               nor, unfortunately, will it be the last.
                             members in the West Midlands, but                                                                                                                              Just as with previous outbreaks,
                        whether a rebate on last quarter’s returns                                                                                                                          COVID-19 is proving a catalyst for
                         to help businesses with cashflow issues                                                                                                                            transforming how our economy
                              will be available, remains unclear.”                                                                                                                          functions.”

10                 The coronavirus crisis continues to
                   paralyse the country as we come to
                   terms with the impact it is having on
                   health, the economy and our way
                                                                                                          By Dr Sophie
                                                                                                                                                     The current COVID-19 outbreak
                                                                                                                                                     underlines the importance of our
                                                                                                                                                     industrial base in maintaining our
                                                                                                                                                     national prosperity and wellbeing,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     By Charlotte
                   of life.                                                                                                                          putting paid to the oft-repeated                                                Midlands & East

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 COVID-19 outlook
COVID-19 outlook

                      People are rightly concerned                                                        director                                   misconception that Britain no longer                                            England director,
                   about their own wellbeing and their                                                    at ICAEW,                                  makes anything. Through ingenuity                                               Make UK, The
                   loved ones too, and are following                                                      Midlands                                   and innovation, UK manufacturers                                                Manufacturers’
                   government advice to stay at home.                                                                                                have been at the forefront of                                                   Organisation
                   This has had a knock-on effect                                                                                                    the national effort to tackle the
                   on companies of all sizes, and               concerned about being able to pay            We know that the move to defer          outbreak.                               while ensuring their goods can still     education system to equip existing
                   businesses in the West Midlands are          salaries before the funding becomes       VAT payments was popular amongst              Automotive makers have switched      get to the customers who need them.      employees and a new generation
                   no exception.                                available.                                our members in the West Midlands,          to building ventilators for our NHS,    Though we are very much now in the       with the skills and abilities they
                      At ICAEW, we recognise                       The implications for the West          but whether a rebate on last quarter’s     clothing and textile companies have     eye of the storm, when we emerge         need to thrive in the fourth industrial
                   coronavirus is not just a global health      Midlands professional and                 returns to help businesses with            re-purposed to make medical gowns       from this tragedy, policymakers must     revolution; to increase UK exports
                   emergency, but an economic one               financial services sector are also        cashflow issues will be available,         and facemasks, and food and drink       look to the future, to the new world     and drive our global trade; to drive
                   too. Our members are already telling         worrying. These multi-disciplinary        remains unclear.                           factories are making hand sanitisers    of work that is emerging built on new    forward a comprehensive industrial
                   us that the effects of the nationwide        businesses may be reliant on                 While businesses and staff were         and ensuring our household supplies     digital technologies.                    strategy that delivers the levelling-up
                   lockdown are hitting businesses hard,        short-term contracts and can have         being handed these generous                continue.                                  For every medical mask                our cities and regions desperately
                   and we are continuing to monitor the         one function thriving while another       support packages, it initially                Manufacturing is operating at        manufactured or item of food on          need; to create the right tax and
                   situation closely.                           struggles, though the high demand         appeared that the self-employed            the cutting edge of science and         supermarket shelves stand a line         regulatory conditions for industry to
                      For example, there are serious            for insolvency practitioners and          would be overlooked. Fortunately,          technology: whether by using the        of companies each producing              grow; and to invest in innovation so
                   concerns from members about                  employment specialists may help           this was not to be the case.               latest 3D printing techniques to        vital components which enable            that together we can help ensure that
                   the manufacturing sector in the              mitigate the impact on other parts of        The income support scheme               produce critical components for         that finished product to be made         Britain remains the best place in the
                   West Midlands. It has experienced            the firm.                                 announced was game-changing,               medical equipment or working at         available.                               world to do business.
                   severe turbulence recently after                There’s no doubt some businesses       and “among the most generous and           speed to produce the medicines and         These supply chain companies             This is not the first global pandemic
                   coronavirus fears took hold and              will have to make tough decisions in      comprehensive packages to support          vaccine we urgently need.               have adapted their ways of working       nor, unfortunately, will it be the last.
                   infringed on supply chains. While            the weeks and months to come.             those who are self-employed in the            Developments in industry –           to encompass the Government’s            Just as with previous outbreaks,
                   the overall impact is not yet known,            We are pleased to see the              world” according to Rishi Sunak.           from robotics to 3D printing,           social distancing measures, keeping      COVID-19 is proving a catalyst for
                   manufacturers are calling on the             Government already announce                  While we recognise the                  nanotechnology, biotechnology,          their employees protected by             transforming how our economy
                   Government to step in and mitigate           schemes to help businesses in this        complexities involved in setting it up,    materials science and energy storage    adapting their production processes      functions.
                   the damage.                                  unprecedented time. However,              waiting until June for the grants to       – are all enabling innovative new       to enable those products to be              The adaptability, innovation,
                      Cashflow is another issue keeping         members have told us they would           arrive will be a big concern for many.     products and also creating new          manufactured and available.              and resilience demonstrated by
                   business leaders up at night. The            like to see greater clarity on which         The immediate future is uncertain,      business practices.                        Manufacturers are already working     businesses across the country
                   Chancellor’s furlough scheme was             businesses are eligible, how to claim     but we will continue to provide               As countries around the world        in partnership with government on        this month shows that with the
                   unprecedented and a good start               and whether job shares are covered,       support to businesses across the           have gone into lockdown, firms have     the national COVID-19 response and       right policies and practices, UK
                   in the battle to keep the economy            and we are working to provide detail      West Midlands, and I wish them all         begun to explore new ways to keep       they stand ready to continue working     manufacturing can be at the heart of
                   moving, but businesses will be               where we can.                             luck.                                      their workers safe from infection,      with government: to improve our          the next industrial revolution.

                      At the time of writing, the business                                                By Paul                                    if the crisis may change some of our   to help others adapt to practices        Moving’. There has been plenty of
                      world is still coming to terms with                                                 Faulkner                                   practices forever.                     such as remote working and               appetite from businesses to do just
                      changes in the way it operates                                                      Chief executive,                               Resilience has been a fulcrum of   video conferencing, events and           that, with many embracing different
                      to help reduce the spread of                                                        Greater                                    the Greater Birmingham business        conferences have been delivered          ways of communication such as
                      COVID-19.                                                                           Birmingham                                 community over the past few years      online, and others have rallied to       our daily #GBChamberChat virtual
                         The impact of this virus, of course,                                             Chambers of                                and we’ve seen that in abundance in    support the NHS.                         networking hour.
                      has been far more widespread than                                                   Commerce                                   the last few weeks.                       Throughout the COVID-19                  Undoubtedly, though, the pace of
                      employees being told to work from                                                                                                  We’ve seen some of our             disruption, the Chamber has              change and progress our region was
                      home.                                                                                                                          member businesses reaching out         adopted a mantra of ‘Keep Business       enjoying a few months ago has been
                         Events, trade shows and other           coronavirus several weeks before it          It has been an extremely tough                                                                                         interrupted by COVID-19.
                      gatherings have been cancelled all         had fully taken hold in the UK.           period for businesses, who have had                                                                                          Right now, it is difficult to gaze too
                      over the world, while retailers, bars,       Even back then when business            to manage both the fiscal impact of                                                                                       far into the future. When this crisis
                      restaurants and theatres are closing,      was still operating under relatively      the pandemic and the physical and                   “We’ve seen some of our member                                        is over, many areas of business life
                      and manufacturers have ground to           normal circumstances, firms reported
                                                                 that they were feeling the impact of
                                                                                                           mental wellbeing of their staff. But          businesses reaching out to help others                                      will no doubt have changed beyond
                      a halt. The impact on West Midlands                                                  while COVID-19 has kept people                                                                                            recognition.
                      businesses has been stark.                 cancellations and supplier disruption.    indoors, there is still business to be     adapt to practices such as remote working                                         However, I’m confident we will
                         Greater Birmingham Chambers             That seems light years away now as        done.
                      of Commerce began surveying                face-to-face business has since been         It has forced most of us to re-asses
                                                                                                                                                     and video conferencing . . . and others have                                    pick up that pace again – and that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     resilience I talked about earlier will
                      local businesses on the impact of          put on hold altogether.                   the way we work and one wonders                           rallied to support the NHS.”                                    come to the fore once more.
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
Entering 2020, the property industry
                   was awash with predictions for the
                   year ahead with some common
                   themes: Boris Johnson’s victory
                                                                                                             By Robbie                                    STEPHEN DREW, professional services managing partner at
                   in the December election and the
                   subsequent departure from the                                                             Real estate
                                                                                                                                                          Smith & Williamson’s Birmingham office, offers advice on
                   European Union had provided some
                                                                                                             specialist at
                                                                                                             Mills & Reeve
                                                                                                                                                          how to protect your business in these extraordinary times
                   certainty, and it was hoped that this
                   would lead to more investment;
                   retail would continue to struggle as
                   the high street sought to reinvent
                   itself, and the industrial and logistics    quarterly to help tenants manage                   The relief packages made available
                   landscapes would continue to                cashflow, payment holidays or                  to businesses have offered some
                   perform well, driven by increasing          suspension, and even waiver in some            hope for the high street. This may
                   e-commerce.                                 cases.                                         also lead to the sought-after review
                      No one predicted a global                   On deal volumes, existing                   of how business rates are charged

12                 pandemic that would require those
                   in the retail, leisure and hospitality
                   sectors to close their doors, forcing
                   their staff to work from home and
                                                               transactions are still being completed,
                                                               but we expect a marked reduction
                                                               in appetite for new deals over the
                                                               coming months. We have seen that in
                                                                                                              to create a more level playing field
                                                                                                              between businesses with a high
                                                                                                              street presence and those trading
                                                                                                              solely online.
                   grind construction sites to a halt.         the context of new office space.                   Longer term, the need for decent
COVID-19 outlook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  COVID-19 business protection
                      Aside from certain operations               After the restrictions are lifted, high-    tech and reliable connectivity has
                   spanning supermarkets, medical              street vacancies are likely to increase,       become even more apparent as
                   equipment and e-commerce – which            yet wider real estate impacts might            the nation works from home, so
                   have seen increased demand for              be less severe as the movement of              technology is likely to be embraced
                   their products or services – the short      people and business activity return            even more across real estate.
                   term will see substantial disruption        to ‘normal’ levels. Occupiers are              Birmingham’s tech sector is well
                   and uncertainty for most corporate          however likely to have less capital            placed to meet these changing
                   occupiers.                                  available, either having spent the war         requirements.
                      Emergency legislation in the             chest or having accrued more debt.                 Health and the health economy
                   Coronavirus Act 2020 prevents                  If banks are unwilling or unable            are also likely to have greater focus.
                   leases being forfeited for (at least) the   to lend, there could also be a                 The importance of providing the NHS
                   next three months for non-payment           credit crunch, with the prospect of            with sufficient resources will be fresh
                   of rent, reducing risk of eviction in the   higher interest rates looking likely if        in the mind of the nation, and will
                   short term. Yet, that does not stop the     quantitative easing measures have an           no doubt be a key political issue for
                   rent from falling due and could simply      inflationary effect.                           years to come, creating opportunities
                   postpone the unavoidable for many              These factors could put the brakes          for companies within the health
                   occupiers, leading to risk of eviction      on investment in new projects or               economy.
                   after the moratorium expires.               initiatives such as an office move or a            The pandemic may also create a
                      Landlords are also in an unenviable      new production line, which could put           greater reluctance to rely on global
                   position. Many will have their own          downward pressure on deal volume,              supply chains, perhaps placing more
                   debt covenants and will depend on           demand and commercial property                 emphasis on local supply chains,
                   regular payments of rent, with some         values.                                        even more so for the West Midlands
                   taking hard stances with their tenants         While there are challenges, there           if the Government follows through on
                   and threatening court proceedings or        will be plenty of opportunities,               commitments to ‘levelling up’ regions
                   insolvency.                                 particularly in the West Midlands. HS2         outside London.
                      We are however seeing many               and the 2022 Commonwealth Games                    While it is too early to predict what
                   landlords accept rent concessions           will create tangible opportunities             the future will bring for real estate, it
                   of varying degrees, often offering          for growth, raising the profile of and         is clear there are not only challenges
                   monthly payments instead of                 driving investment in the region.              ahead, but opportunities too.

                   Like thousands of other like-minded
                   business owners, I’m convinced

                                                                                                                                                                                         Cash is king
                                                                                                             By Stacey
                   we can get through this. We’re
                   thinking differently, coming up with
                   new business ideas and battling                                                           Founder of
                   on, determined to enjoy more                                                              Edwin Ellis
                                                                                                             Creative Media
                   prosperous times.
                      We take pride in being a small
                   part of a healthy West Midlands                                                                                                                                       The speed at which coronavirus            and wellbeing of their employees.
                   creative sector with hundreds of                                                                                                                                      has struck at the heart of the global        There is a saying: “Revenue is
                   small agencies, freelancers and             independents thinking creatively              sector and hundreds of writers,                                             economy has been overwhelming.            vanity, profit is sanity, but cash is king”.
                   self-employed consultants creating          and collaborating with others to              consultants and photographers                                               With a public health crisis and an        Put another way, businesses don’t
                   stories, photography, videography,          offer home deliveries, gift vouchers,         across the West Midlands. It could                                          invisible enemy, businesses all over      fail because of a lack of short-term
                   film making, illustrations, digital         future event bookings and a host of           mean survival or closure in the                                             the UK are waking up to a daily dose      profitability, they fail because they run
                   marketing services and PR.                  ideas to survive this difficult period.       coming months, and any national                                             of unwelcome change and uncertainty.      out of cash.
                      During the coronavirus outbreak             Now, using the same mindset,               or international agencies could still                     Stephen Drew,     In some cases, businesses will be            The good news is that our
                   much emphasis has been placed on            perhaps Birmingham’s big                      be used for long-term marketing                     Professional Services   faced with an almost total loss of        Government is fully aware and
                   the difficulties faced by independent       businesses – those household                  support.                                               Managing Partner     demand, while for others demand will      alert to this challenge. A series of
                   hospitality venues and what we              names we celebrate relocating to                 Now, more than ever, businesses                  Birmingham, Smith &     soar.                                     unprecedented measures have
                   can do to support them. These are           the city – could think about using            need to communicate with staff,                           Williamson LLP       In these extraordinary times, it’s     already been announced and these
                   fantastic places adding vibrancy and        small businesses to help bolster              customers, clients and stakeholders                                         important to remember that normality      will be amended and fine-tuned as
                   personality to our towns and cities,        their marketing, PR and creative              through words, pictures and clever                                          will return. While nobody can predict     we go along. One way or another,
                   and a huge number of people rely on         content.                                      content.                                                                    the timetable, the focus for all of our   there is a multitude of ways in which
                   them for their livelihoods.                    Locally commissioned work could               The creative skills are there, ready                                     entrepreneurs and business owners         businesses can both create and
                      It is great to see so many               have a huge impact on the creative            and waiting to get involved.                                                must be to protect their businesses       conserve additional cash, and we are
                                                                                                                                                                                         and, wherever possible, the livelihoods   setting out some suggestions here.
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
Other Government support
                                                                                                                                                             Grants                                          rateable value between £15,000 and               HMRC until the end of the 2020/21 tax
                                                                                                                                                             Small businesses may be eligible                £51,000. Any enquiries on eligibility            year. This deferral is automatic and no
                                                                                                                                                             for cash grants. The Government                 for, or the provision of, the reliefs and        application is required.
                                                                                                                                                             has proposed a 12-month business                grants should be directed towards the            Income tax deferral for all self-
                                                                                                                                                             rates holiday for all retail, hospitality       relevant local authority.                        employed
                                                                                                                                                             and leisure businesses in England.              VAT deferral for all businesses                  All self-employed taxpayers can now
                                                                                                                                                             All businesses in receipt of small              All businesses are now able to defer             defer their self-assessment payments
                                                                                                                                                             business rate relief or rural rate              their VAT payments for three months.             due on July 31, 2020 until January
                                                                                                                                                             relief can claim small business grant           This deferral will apply to VAT due for          31, 2021. No application is required
                                                                                                                                                             funding of £10,000, rising to £25,000           the period from 20th March 2020 until            and no penalties or interest will be
                                                                                                                                                             for retail, hospitality and leisure             30th June 2020 and any accumulated               charged in the deferral period.
                                                                                                                                                             businesses with property with a                 deferral will not need to be paid to

14                             Review your business plan, identify
                               short-term goals
                               If you are experiencing a lack of (or even increased)
                                                                                                Reforecast likely sales and cashflows
                                                                                                for both the short and medium terms
                                                                                                Be realistic about the likely impact on future sales and
                                                                                                                                                             Alternative funding
                                                                                                                                                             Asset-based lending options can
                               demand which could lead to future cashflow challenges,           costs, and work with your finance team or external           also be a useful source of short-term
                               long-term ambitions may need to be set aside to protect          advisers to reforecast your short to medium-term cash
COVID-19 business protection

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          COVID-19 business protection
                                                                                                                                                             financing. It is possible to borrow
                               your business in the short term. Consider your business          flows. Talk to your suppliers, fine tune your buying,        against invoices issued but not paid,
                               plan and decide which elements need to be changed,               examine your day-to-day costs. Remember that falling
                                                                                                                                                             for example. Businesses can also
                               accelerated or curtailed. Do this now! Make sure that            sales may reduce your working capital requirement (eg
                                                                                                                                                             borrow against equipment and other
                               every member of your team is focusing on your key                debtors, stocks) and generate additional cash. Given the
                               priorities, making every moment count.                           fast-moving situation, make this a weekly activity.
                                                                                                                                                                Perhaps the cheapest way to
                                                                                                                                                             borrow may be against your main
                               Review banking arrangements                                      Review capital commitments                                   residence. This can have some tax
                               and covenants                                                    If you have recently committed to acquiring new assets       planning advantages.
                               Your bank is an essential trading partner, so you will           for your business – cars, computers, machinery etc – can
                               need to keep it on side. Highlight any challenges or             you put these on hold to conserve cash? Remember             HMRC time to pay
                               the likely need for support as early as possible. Be             that cash always takes precedence over short-term
                                                                                                                                                             Small businesses can make
                               professional, plan ahead for meetings, and ensure                profitability.
                                                                                                                                                             arrangements to defer payment
                               that any presentations or proposals are clearly set out,                                                                      of their VAT or PAYE. HMRC has a
                               detailed, accurate and realistic. Know what is due and                                                                        dedicated phoneline for coronavirus-
                               when, maintain regular communications and be mindful                                                                          related challenges to help businesses
                               and respectful of any covenants. Finally, remember that                                                                       unable to pay their taxes on time
                               banking relationships are built on trust.                                                                                     (corporation tax, income tax, PAYE,
                                                                                                                                                             VAT) with options to defer or delay
                                                                                                                                                             payment. The number to call is 0800
                                                                                                                                                             024 1222. Assuming that HMRC                     Government SSP support                           Directors’ responsibilities
                                ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT-BACKED FUNDING                                                                                          accept your application, this can be
                                                                                                                                                                                                              for businesses with less                        The Government has announced
                                                                                                                                                             a hugely valuable and fast route to
                                                                                                                                                             conserving your cash.                            than 250 employees                              flexible insolvency rules to prevent
                                                                                                                                                                In addition to the above, if you                                                              businesses unable to meet debts
                                Business interruption loans                                                                                                  think you may be due a tax refund
                                                                                                                                                                                                             The Government will cover up to two              due to the impact of coronavirus from
                                                                                                                                                                                                             weeks’ statutory sick pay per eligible           being forced to file for bankruptcy.
                               The Government has recently                the lenders, who will be comforted         will kick in where businesses have      or tax credits, it will be worth getting        employee who has been off work
                               launched the Coronavirus Business          by the Government’s 80% guarantee          a sound borrowing proposal but          your various returns in quickly to                                                                  However, if it looks as if you can’t
                                                                                                                                                                                                             because of COVID-19. This relief is              continue, or you know or ought
                               Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).          but still wary of the risks they will      insufficient security.                  begin the refund process.                       available to employers with fewer than
                               Loans of up to £5 million are available    be assuming on the remaining 20%.             For further information visit www.                                                                                                    to conclude that your business
                                                                                                                                                                                                             250 employees. A rebate scheme is
                               to UK-based businesses in eligible         Finally, the Government has agreed and         Accessing funding from                          being developed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              can’t survive, remember your
                               sectors, provided that their turnover is   to cover the first 12 months of interest   view the detailed pages on the          pension schemes                                                                                  responsibilities and take advice.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sharing the burden may open up
                               no more than £45 million.                  payments.                                  Coronavirus Business Interruption
                                                                                                                                                             In certain cases, businesses can
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Reducing employee costs                         unexpected avenues to help you
                                  This support is only for ‘viable’          This is a great scheme for those        Loan Scheme to find accredited
                               businesses and is at the discretion of     that need it and can gain access, and      lenders.                                borrow from their pension scheme,               For many businesses this will be a last          protect your business.
                                                                                                                                                             but this is subject to strict rules. Loans      resort and will come with some legal                Want to know more? With the
                                                                                                                                                             must be for investment growth only,             implications. Tread carefully. Consider          high levels of uncertainty caused by
                               Job Retention Scheme                                                                                                          rather than being used to prop up               part-time working, sabbaticals or job            this crisis affecting individuals and
                                                                                                                                                             a business in difficulties. They are            sharing as well as lay-offs, but make            business, Smith & Williamson has
                               The Government’s plans to protect            The funding for this will be             (those who would have been laid         limited to five years or less and must          sure you consult with a lawyer first             launched a dedicated coronavirus
                               jobs have led to the introduction          unlimited and all UK businesses,           off but for the introduction of this    not be more than 50% of the assets of           so you don’t incur even bigger bills             hub – a single platform for all related
                               of the Coronavirus Job Retention           small or large, charitable or non-         scheme) as ‘furloughed workers’         the pension scheme.                             further down the line.                           information and resources.
                               Scheme.                                    profit, are eligible for the scheme.       and notify them of this change.
                                  This allows employers to claim          The scheme covers part-time                Employment law will continue
                               back 80% of the salary of employees        employees, employees on flexible/          to apply, so legal advice and/or
                               who are temporarily ‘furloughed’.          zero-hour contracts and agency             negotiation may be required.            Please visit the hub at and email
                               Broadly, this means that the employer      workers. It also covers employees             Once agreed, employers will need if you have any queries.
                               will ask affected employees to cease       who were made redundant after              to submit information to HMRC about     Government and Tax legislation, sourced from HMRC and, is that prevailing at the time, is subject to change without notice and
                               their duties for a temporary period,       February 28 of this year but are           the relevant employees and their        depends on individual circumstances. Clients should always seek appropriate tax advice from their financial adviser before making
                               as there is no work, but retain them       then rehired. Only workers who             earnings through a new online portal    financial decisions.
                               as employees. The amount that can          are paid through PAYE can qualify;         which is expected to be set up by the   Smith & Williamson LLP Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of
                               be claimed per employee is 80% of          other workers may need to rely on          end of April 2020.                      investment business activities.
                               their salary, capped at £2,500 per         the separate scheme for the self-             HMRC are working urgently to         A member of Nexia International.
                               month, plus employer’s NICs and            employed.                                  set up their systems, which are not     Disclaimer: By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying
                               minimum auto-enrolment employer              In order to claim, employers will        currently able to facilitate payments   the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this
                               pension contributions on that sum.         need to designate affected workers         to employers.                           publication. Details correct at time of writing.
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
                    IA                                                                                                                                    By ANDY STREET
                                                                                                                           Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority

                                                                                               Facing the biggest
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                                                                                               peacetime challenge                                                                                                           column
that's individual
        individual to
                   to your
                      your business,
                            business, for
                                      for little
                                          little                                               Coronavirus is the gravest public        who run small limited companies           provided me with clear messages on
or no
   no extra
       extra cost.
             cost.                                                                             health threat our nation has faced in    and pay themselves mainly through         the virus’s economic impact, which
                                                                                               generations.                             dividends. This is one of a number        I fed directly to ministers, while also
Anything your smartphone can do, NT Multimedia                                                    There can be no doubt that the        of issues I am raising with the           providing feedback for policy makers
can bring to your desk phone. Whether you want                                                 second city’s business community         Chancellor, which I am confident will     on the measures they have already
                                                                                               is facing its biggest peacetime          be addressed, as the Government           announced.
to check your emails, access documents, manage                                                 challenge. In the space of a few         has shown that it is willing to be           I have also been struck by the
your calls or download your favourite apps, the                                                weeks the economic landscape here        flexible in trying to help all kinds of   determination I have seen within
                                                                                               and across the world has changed         businesses.                               the business sector, which gives me
possibilities are
              are infinite.
                   infinite.                                                                   dramatically, with businesses told           Policy makers are having to move      confidence that Birmingham will not
                                                                                               to close their doors and most of the     quickly and often without perfect         only endure this, but bounce back
                                                                                               population in lockdown. Chancellor       information to hand. Economists           afterwards.
                                                                                               Rishi Sunak correctly described          are now working to model what the            I believe the strong economy we
                                                                                               what we are facing as an “economic       ongoing economic effects of the           have built in the West Midlands will
                                                                                               emergency”.                              virus may be.                             survive if cash is delivered to where it
                                                                                                  While the decision to close so            It is clear that this will be the     is needed. As we entered this crisis,
                                                                                               many businesses was a difficult one,     sharpest economic downturn we             the West Midlands had reached
                                                                                               it was unquestionably the right thing    have ever experienced. However,           record employment levels, with 75%
SO MUCH MORE THAN                                                                              to do given the advice provided by
                                                                                               our leading scientists and medics.
                                                                                                                                        while that downturn could be deep,
                                                                                                                                        it is also expected to be relatively
                                                                                                                                                                                  of people in jobs. This is a robust
                                                                                                                                                                                  economy. I have confidence that the
A BUSINESS PHONE...                                                                            The financial measures announced         short, unlike the financial crisis        innovation and expertise that exists
                                                                                               by the Government represent an           of 2008 where the shortfall was           in our business sector can provide
                                                                                               unprecedented package of support         prolonged. So, if the plan is to bridge   the flexibility to see out the crisis.
                                                                                               for the business world.                  what may be a deep but hopefully             And, above all, I know that
                                                                                                  I know that across many business      short dip, then current policy moves      Brummies have the resilience and
                                                                                               sectors, there will have been a huge     are right.                                fortitude to overcome this challenge.
                                                                                               sense of relief when the Chancellor          The challenge now is to deliver          From World War Two to the horrors
                                                                                               announced the Government                 financial support quickly to              of the pub bombings and the mass
                              RE-CALL               CONNECT                                    would cover 80% of the wages of          businesses. To enable this, we have       lay-offs of de-industrialisation, the
                                                                                               employees who are sent home, along       also seen an unparalleled level           people of Birmingham have shown
                                                                                               with the deferment of VAT bills. Huge    of direct communication between           they will always overcome adversity.
  FREE HD VIDEO          COMMUNICATE              INSTANT         NEVER LOSE     CHECK YOUR    effort is being put into new loans       the Government and industry. We              This crisis has, in many ways,
      CALLS              AT THE TOUCH          ACCESS TO CALL   TRACK OF CALLS     EMAILS      and business rate holidays being         have seen ministers reach out to          shown us at our best. Whether that’s
                          OF A BUTTON            RECORDING                                     delivered very quickly, in particular    industrialists to build the ventilators   through the hundreds of thousands
                                                                                               to help larger businesses make their     needed to treat those worst affected,     of volunteers who have signed up
                                                                                               cash payments to small suppliers.        or for tradesmen to build emergency       to help the NHS or the people who
                                                                                                  The £9 billion bailout for the self   hospitals.                                stood on their doorsteps offering
                                                                                               employed, announced more recently,           Then there is the West Midlands       a symbolic round of applause for
                                                                                               will also have brought some peace        Regional Economic Contingency             carers of all types. The UK has united
                                                                                               of mind to so many in our business       Group, which unites business,             in a way seldom seen in peacetime.
                                                                                               community.                               community leaders and politicians            As I write, the businesses and
                                                                                                  Some questions still remain – such    to feed opinion directly to the           tradespeople of the West Midlands
                                                                                               as concerns over support for people      Government. This forum has                are being set a new challenge to
                                                                                                                                                                                  help us overcome coronavirus – a
  MANAGE YOUR               CONNECT                DOWNLOAD       CONTROL        PERSONALISE                                                                                      Dunkirk moment for our times.
     DIARY                BLUETOOTH &                APPS       HOME & OFFICE    YOUR DEVICE                                                                                      Government is reaching for help in
                          WIFI DEVICES                          ENVIRONMENTS                                              “I have been struck by the                              building, equipping and staffing the
                                                                                                                                                                                  vast Nightingale emergency hospital
                                                                                                                   determination I have seen within                               that is being created at the NEC,
                                                                                                                    the business sector, which gives                              ready to supply the extra beds that
                                                                                                                                                                                  could be needed when the outbreak
GET IN TOUCH TODAY FOR YOUR E:                                                      me confidence that Birmingham                                  hits its peak.
                                                                                                                       will not only endure this, but                                I know that Birmingham and the
                                                                                                                                                                                  West Midlands are ready to meet this
                                                                                         bounce back afterwards.”                               challenge.
Life after lockdown - SPECIAL EDITION - HGF
Main picture: PML finds a sustainable use for the by-products of coal-fired
                                                                                                            power generation
                                                                                                            Below: The ash PML supplies meets the exacting standards needed for
                                                                                                            use in different kinds of cement and concrete products and undergoes
                                                                                                            rigorous testing before use

                                                                                                            stations to the construction and             The Birmingham business community
                                                                                                            manufacturing sectors.                       is incredibly strong and diverse, and
                                                                                                                The ash, a by-product from the           we’re proud to call the second city
                                                                                                            coal-burning process, is one of              our home.
                                                                                                            modern life’s secret ingredients.               “It’s always been a hotbed of
                                                                                                                “Ash is everywhere,” explains PML’s      innovation and, as an ideas-led
                                                                                                            managing director Nigel Waldron.             company that bridges so many
                                                                                                            “It goes into cement products,               different sectors, it’s the perfect place

                                                                                                            breeze blocks, flyovers, motorways,
                                                                                                            into concrete piles and is even
                                                                                                            pumped underground for building
                                                                                                                                                         for us to be.”
                                                                                                                                                            Considering its links to fossil
                                                                                                                                                         fuel power, perhaps the most
                                                                                                                                                         surprising aspect of PML’s work is
                                                                                                                “People don’t realise how much           the company’s green credentials,
                                                                                                            it is used in their own houses. It’s in      with its supply network providing an
                                                                                                            your concrete steps, foundations,            environmentally friendly use for the
                                                                                                            paving slabs, roof tiles, mortar, grout      by-products from coal-burning power
                                                                                                            and bricks. When you drill a hole in         stations.
                                                                                                            your wall at home, that grey stuff that         Manufacturers and infrastructure
                                                                                                            comes out . . . chances are it was           projects using ash can boast much
                                                                                                            once power station ash.”                     better ‘green’ credentials because
                                                                                                                When PML was founded by                  they are re-using secondary minerals
                                                                                                            Waldron and partner Peter Brannan            instead of cutting up the countryside
                                                                                                            in 2003, it was an ambitious two-            to mine virgin aggregates. What’s
                                                                                                            man start-up with two desks and              more, cement made using ash as an
                                                                                                            two telephones. The fledgling                ingredient also eats up less power
                                                                                                            firm’s mission was simple – to find          and resources in its manufacturing
                                                                                                            sustainable uses for the mountains of        process, reducing its carbon
                                                                                                            ash left over by power generation at         footprint.
                                                                                                            the UK’s coal-burning power stations.           PML’s distribution network, through
                                                                                                                Today, it is a national market leader,   partnerships with power stations
                                                                                                            employing 14 people across three             like Drax, has helped British industry
                                                                                                            sites, working to direct millions of         avoid releasing millions of tonnes
                                                                                                            tonnes of ash by-product from power          of CO2 into the atmosphere – a
                                                                                                            stations for re-use in manufacturing         remarkable feat given the coal-fired
                                                                                                            and many of the key infrastructure           origins of the ash itself.
                                                                                                            projects that are reshaping our                 “We are proud of the part we play
                                                                                                            country.                                     in providing a sustainable use for
                                                                                                                The firm went global in 2010             ash and are the UK’s number one
                                                                                                            when it was bought out by German             independent supplier,” says Waldron.
                                                                                                            energy company STEAG, marking the               “When I first started, power

          The value of waste                                     Earlier this year saw a major
                                                                                                            creation of an international network.
                                                                                                                While PML’s sales and distribution
                                                                                                            team are based at Drax, it remains a
                                                                                                            resolutely Brummie firm. Waldron is
                                                                                                            a familiar face on the city’s business
                                                                                                                                                         stations were actually paying
                                                                                                                                                         companies to take the ash away, but
                                                                                                                                                         now it has completely turned around.
                                                                                                                                                         Our mission has been to create a
                                                                                                                                                         supply chain that always delivers
                                                                                                            scene, was the founding president            ash where it is needed, when it is
                                                                 landmark in how the UK’s power is          of the Sutton Coldfield Chamber              needed, to the right quality.
                                                                 generated.                                 of Commerce and now serves as                   “I’ve always believed that in
                                                                    In February, the huge Drax Power        its chairman. The firm supports              business you’ve got to be true to
                                                                 station in Yorkshire announced that
                  Coal-burning power stations are soon to        it would stop burning coal by next
                                                                                                            local charities including Ronald
                                                                                                            McDonald House and sponsors
                                                                                                                                                         your word and never let a customer
                                                                                                                                                         down. That’s our ethos – we will
              become defunct in the UK so does this spell        year as it completes its switch to
                                                                 next-generation sustainable power
                                                                                                            the annual #Brumfeeds foodbank
                                                                                                            campaign. Even the company’s logo
                                                                                                                                                         always go above and beyond, even if
                                                                                                                                                         it costs us.”
             the end of a Sutton Coldfield company which         generation.
                                                                    By far the UK’s biggest power
                                                                                                            proudly sports the claret and blue of           The ash PML supplies meets the
                                                                                                            Waldron’s beloved Aston Villa.               exacting standards needed for use
              has carved a niche for itself harvesting their     station, Drax provides a significant           Accolades at the Birmingham Post         in different kinds of cement and
                                                                 portion of the nation’s electricity, and   Business Awards – for Excellence             concrete products and undergoes
               ash by-product and exporting it around the        has ambitions to become carbon             in Industry and Manufacturer of the          rigorous testing before use. Drive
                                                                 negative by 2030. But while Drax’s
               world? Far from it, its bosses say, it has just   energy output helps power some of
                                                                                                            Year – have given wider recognition
                                                                                                            for the sheer breadth of PML’s work
                                                                                                                                                         across the UK and you’ll find yourself
                                                                                                                                                         unwittingly surrounded by it in the
                              created another opportunity.       the second city’s business sector, it
                                                                 also provides another lesser-known
                                                                                                            in the region.
                                                                                                                “We are a national company in
                                                                                                                                                         built environment.
                                                                                                                                                            “Our products have been used as
                                      CHRIS AUSTIN reports       product – and it’s a Birmingham firm
                                                                 that ensures its delivery across the
                                                                                                            terms of our partnerships at power
                                                                                                            station sites, and an international
                                                                                                                                                         structural fill for bridge abutments
                                                                                                                                                         and slip road embankments for the
                                                                 globe.                                     company when you consider our                huge A50 project in Staffordshire,”
                                                                    From its HQ in Sutton Coldfield,        German connections and import-               says sales and technical director Ivan
                                                                 Power Minerals Ltd – or PML –              exports network,” says Waldron, who          Skidmore.
                                                                 oversees a vast supply chain               grew up in Sutton Coldfield.                    “Our ash products are in
                                                                 delivering fly ash from power                  “However, Birmingham is our base.        the concrete structures of the
A14 improvement scheme in                                                                                                                                                                                   will see the launch of significant

          Cambridgeshire and were used to
          stabilise the ground where the M8
          has been widened in Scotland.
             “Millions of tonnes of our ash have
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      manufacturing operation that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      represents major expansion.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Over the last four years, PML
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      has invested heavily in applying its
          also been used to stabilise old mines                                                                                                                                                                       expertise to the by-products of new
          beneath the Black Country.”                                                                                                                                                                                 forms of power generation. Its Biolite
             So, as the UK switches away from                                                                                                                                                                         division takes the by-products of
          coal power, what does the future                                                                                                                                                                            modern biomass power generation
          hold for PML?                                                                                                                                                                                               processes to create pioneering
             “There is no question that coal-                                                                                                                                                                         agriculture products such as
          fired power generation is coming to                                                                                                                                                                         fertilisers.
          an end – that is a reality – and we                                                                                                                                                                            This ground-breaking process
          have been preparing for it for years,”                                                                                                                                                                      turns what was a hazardous waste
          explains Waldron.                                                                                                                                                                                           into a low-carbon product that helps
             “The fact is that after so many                                                                                                                                                                          both the UK agriculture sector and
          years of power generation using coal,                                                                                                                                                                       the environment, by removing the
          there are huge stockpiles of ash left                                                                                                                                                                       need for farmers to import expensive
          that will allow us to keep supplying                                                                                                                                                                        fertilisers from abroad.
                                                                                                                                                       Despite fossil fuels being phased out in favour of more           “We are excited by the prospects
          industry for decades to come. So,
                                                                                                                                                       sustainable material, the UK has vast stockpiles of ash        for our new fertiliser product
          in order to deliver quality ash to our
                                                                                                                                                             left over from years of coal-fired energy creation       because it represents the natural
          customers, we are now extracting
          from those stockpiles and looking to                                                                                                                                                                        evolution of what we do,” says
          access and process more.”                the reliability of the UK’s ash supply   Quality Ash Association – to have       Station in Staffordshire prior to       millions of tonnes for potential export   Waldron. “While we are continuing
             The best example of this can be       chain,” Skidmore says.                   these areas reclassified as Strategic   its closure, utilising an ultra-sonic   to western Europe, where such             to access ash to supply industry, it’s
          seen at Fiddlers Ferry, the north west      “Our strategy since has been to       Pozzolanic Reserves.                    separation process to remove quality    legacy stockpiles are less accessible.    important that as the power sector
          power station which announced its        create a robust and reliable supply         “This would allow urban mining       cementicious particles from old ash.       Investment, research and               changes, we change too – and this is
          closure last year. While generation      chain by investing in our own            of the stockpiled ash which, with          This process, along with other       development of this type is key to        a great example of finding a use for
          may have halted at the site, PML         infrastructure, importing from our       the cutting-edge technology we          technologies, is likely to be a game    the success of PML and its future         next-generation power generation
          continues to market ash from historic    international network, developing        are developing, could see the UK        changer for the industry, creating      operations.                               by-products.”
          deposits, extracting and shipping the    ways of tapping into the significant     become a world leader in exporting      a long-term sustainable supply of          As the power sector moves away            With a new era of infrastructure
          millions of tonnes of ash left there.    legacy stockpiles we have in the UK,     quality ash products around the         low-carbon material for making          from coal, PML’s technicians are now      construction now expected, he
          PML, working together with SSE who       and investing in research on future      globe.”                                 environmentally friendly cement and     looking for ways to recycle and reuse     predicts there will be more demand
          own the site, currently excavate over    solutions.                                  There are a wide variety of          concrete. This would not only create    the by-products of the sustainable        than ever for ash, both nationally and
          350,000 tonnes of ash from Fiddlers         “The UK has a huge stockpile of       processes called ‘beneficiation’        jobs nationally – by giving new         fuels that are replacing it.              across the Midlands.
          Ferry per year.                          ash trapped in landfill sites and we     technologies. PML trialled and          life to legacy stockpiles across the       Now the firm stands on the cusp of        Infrastructure projects such as sea
             “Four years ago, a decline in the     have been lobbying government            commercially operated one of these      country – but would also remove the     a new era. After years of preparation,    wall defences, London’s Crossrail,
          coal-fired energy sector affected        – through bodies such as the UK          technologies at Rugeley Power           UK’s reliance on imports and provide    research and investment, this year        the M6 Toll and HS2 all rely on power
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      station ash as a vital ingredient.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Once we have fully understood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      the economic impact of coronavirus,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      we’re expecting the previously
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      announced infrastructure projects to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      roll out,” he adds.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “HS2, major road building and a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      new era of NHS construction will all
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      require the products that we provide,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      and we’ll be working to ensure that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      there is a continuous, reliable flow of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ash to underpin manufacturing and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Coal-powered energy may
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      be coming to an end, but it is our
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      mission to ensure that its most
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      beneficial legacy – millions of tonnes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      of valuable ash – is accessible for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      sustainable manufacturing and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      construction projects of the future.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         As the Birmingham of tomorrow
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      takes shape, it seems it will still
                           Sales and technical     The PML team picks up the award for Excellence in Manufacturing at last                                          Managing director Nigel Waldron at work at        contain plenty of PML’s secret
                       director Ivan Skidmore      year’s Birmingham Post Business Awards                                                                                        PML’s HQ in Sutton Coldfield         ingredient.
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