The south coast of England provides an opportunity not only for a lifestyle based around sunshine and fresh air but also to work in either of two regions – south east or south west; places that are both on the up-and-up.
For the purposes of this feature we’ve ever-so slightly redrawn the boundary lines. It seemed sensible to talk about towns and cities (and the opportunities therein) on the coastline proper such as those in the South East: Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton whilst not ignoring other significant conurbations such as Reading, Ashford, Canterbury and the like but stopping on the outskirts of the Capital’s reach as defined by the M25 motorway. It is after all a resettlement feature, not a geography lesson.
Nevertheless, geography is important to the success of most conurbations as viable places to resettle for one reason or another. The cities on the South East coast are significant parts of the UK economy mainly because of their location, which has led many companies and organisations to set up their head offices in the region. Ultimately, the balance between not having to live with the expense of operating from the Capital but being in close enough proximity to benefit from it (as well as the coast – for exports and imports) adds a bit of magic to the location formula.
The South East of England is the second largest regional economy and is the richest per capita in the UK after London. It makes sense, therefore that it is linked with London. Indeed a brief look at the map will show you that road and railway links splay conveniently outwards bringing huge benefits to the surrounding areas (even though they were previously used extensively to transport the agricultural produce, especially fruit and arable harvest from the region – clearly, things have changed a bit since then).
The hi-tech industry is a good example of how important the influence of London is. A host of technology firms are now located in the south, some of which might struggle internationally without the connections that nearby London can provide. The M3 in Surrey and M4 in Berkshire provide a link to some genuine big-hitters.
Amongst the organisations along the stretch known as the ‘M4 Corridor’ are: Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Yell Group, Logica and Symantec UK whilst further inland from the coast in the area known as the ‘Gatwick Diamond’ are Ineos and the largest company (by turnover) in the South East: Vodafone.
Moving down the coast to roughly its half way point brings us to Hampshire and the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth. The connection between Portsmouth and the Royal Navy is well known and indeed the region still has a strong civilian marine industry.
It is estimated that the maritime and marine sector accounts for around 5% of private sector jobs and up approximately 20% of the Solent region’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Clearly, Service-leavers with transferable skills attractive to engineering or maritime firms should be looking at the region as a potential hotspot. Indeed, with 1,750 marine related businesses the industry supports around 77,000 jobs locally. The Port of Southampton meanwhile, reportedly contributes around £1bn to the UK economy every year, including £714 million for the Solent region and supports 10,590 local jobs.
One of the best known marine companies in the region is Sunseeker Yachts. Although the firm is now run by Chinese owners, they are committed to the traditions and top class reputation of the UK’s marine sector and one of their sales points is definitely ‘British build quality’.
Despite the challenging export market the firm employs around 2,000 people and it looks as though even better times are on the way given that some boat shows (where many of the boats are sold) have been up by around 6% (in terms of footfall) year-on-year. The industry posted growth in 2013/14 with the total revenue of the UK leisure, super-yacht and small commercial marine industry amounting to £32.93billion.
Chief Executive of the British Marine Federation, Howard Pridding told the Southern Daily Echo that “London and Southampton rank at the top in terms of boat shows of the world. We have some iconic British brands and people come here to buy them” before adding a word about the region’s value to the sector, saying: “Hampshire is one of our pre-eminent centres for our industry, without a doubt. It is the most important region for us in the industry.”
To some extent, the west portion of the south coast is probably regarded as the less fashionable from the perspective of business and is more likely to be regarded as a place to take a family holiday in say Devon or Cornwall. Contrary to that view, the South West region, although it does have the longest coastline of any region in England also incorporates important business hubs and is currently host to some exciting commercial plans and projects.
The South West is the largest official region in England covering 9,200 square miles and includes Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and includes cities like Bristol, Exeter and Bath as well as large towns like Bournemouth, Swindon and Cheltenham and is home to approximately five million people.
If the economy of the South East is based on commerce and technology then the South West is based on engineering and energy, with a particular slant towards supporting our defences.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has also been busy along the coast. As recently as March (2015), the then City Minister, Andrea Leadsom MP was in Bournemouth launching its initiative to grow the area’s financial and professional business sector by working closely with local government, industry and educational establishments (such as the nine universities dotted around the region).
The south coast already has an impressive financial arena with JP Morgan employing around 4,000 people at its Bournemouth site but the plan is to take this to the next level and secure further international links and so on (perhaps utilising the international airports at Southampton and Bournemouth). At the present time, it isn’t difficult to visualise its likely ongoing success since it already has 2,000 businesses including 20 FTSE 100 firms with headquarters in the area, providing some 130,000 jobs.
Another major project based in the area is the construction of the new Hinkley Point C (twin-unit European Pressurized Reactor or EPR). Hinkley Point B is due to be decommissioned in 2016 and it’ll take around £24.5bn to build its replacement in Somerset.
As with lots of major infrastructure projects and especially those connected with nuclear energy, the course towards approval hasn’t been smooth. Even now there are concerns that the deal struck by EDF Energy will mean higher energy prices for the homes it supplies.
In any case, what is guaranteed is that the project that could be signed off by David Cameron this month (October 2015) will generate billions of pounds of investment as well as thousands of jobs and is seen as an important step towards the UK meeting its green energy obligations.
Despite other estimates to the contrary, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has already estimated that households will be £74 a year better off (in real terms) by 2026-30 if the project is completed.
Although Bristol was always one of the UK’s great maritime cities it has gradually shifted to become a centre of aeronautics during the last century. Airbus UK, Rolls Royce (military division) and BAE Systems manufacture in Filton to the north of the city. (Defence Equipment Support is based at MoD Abbey Wood.) This has likely been the reason behind other companies involved in telecommunications, electronics and IT also moving into the area to take advantage of the collected skilled workforce.
In fact, Bristol and Swindon have seen several big name organisations move in, such as: Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the Soil Association, Clerical Medical, Orange UK and the Environment Agency.
The number and diversity of dynamic sectors in the region along with the economic recovery has had a positive impact on the jobs market. Because commerce and industry are currently so strong (and many organisations are busy replacing redundancies made during the recession) it has become more of a challenge to find candidates with financial experience. This has meant that companies are now prepared to look more favourably on newly qualified candidates or those with transferable skills in financial services, manufacturing and retail.
According to recruitment company Hays, a broad description of the south coast economy is that commerce, industry and the NHS present good opportunities (especially for financial professionals). Although salaries are not as high as in other areas, the work-life balance that can be achieved is a very attractive incentive.
The south coast has such a broad range of business sectors to choose from, with many of them seemingly holding out the prospect of success by utilising transferable skills that Service-leavers are likely to have in abundance. It isn’t all about the big ‘blue chip’ names though. In any regional economy big companies will always attract smaller concerns and start-ups such as franchise businesses.
The fact is that whatever the economy is based on, if it is successful, people will have money to spend and will require a healthy range of businesses to meet their everyday needs. So from Penzance to Margate there are opportunities for Service-leavers within a host of different sectors and at all levels of experience.
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