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Esh Group boss upbeat about the future
A NORTH-EAST building boss has warned that the battering his industry took during the recession could stifle the pace of recovery.
The construction trade is traditionally seen as a bellwether of the economy for its reputation of being the first industry to suffer during a downturn but among the first sectors to benefit from any recovery.
A slew of upbeat reports from housebuilders, including bullish comments this week from Newcastle-founded Barratt, has led to claims that the beleaguered building trade is emerging from a protracted slump which cost thousands of North-East jobs and saw scores of firms go bust.
Brian Manning, the chief executive of Esh Group, one of the region's biggest construction firms, predicted better times were just around the corner as he announced his firm's annual results which included a modest increase in turnover and a £1m profit.
Mr Manning has been particularly heartened by performance in recent months, fuelled by a pick-up in the housing market, and he expects his workforce of 850 could be back up to the 1,000 mark next year.
But he feared that the supply chain has downsized dramatically during the recession and was struggling to keep pace with rising demand.
"There is a shortage of basic materials such as bricks and blocks, which is a direct result of the tough times that we have been through," he said.
"There is also a lack of skilled workers. Unless we address that we will not be in a position to take advantage of the recovery when it comes.
"I hope we are through the worst. The signs are that things are starting to improve," added Mr Manning, who was cautiously optimistic for Esh, based in Bowburn, near Durham City, and expected that turnover and profits will be stronger in a year's time.
“Although 2012 has been tough we have achieved profits in a difficult market," he said. "Whilst our turnover is only slightly up on the previous year we are in really good shape to take advantage of the upturn which we are now seeing in 2013.
“We have an extremely strong cash position going into 2013; at the year-end Esh Group had £27m in the bank and as we progress into 2013 our work pipeline is very healthy and turnover is up across all companies in the group.”
Esh bosses last night outlined their plans at a meeting of shareholders, many of whom are employees, at Durham County Cricket Club’s Riverside ground.
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