A dozen business wishes for 2013
There are mixed views about what 2013 will bring for businesses from a national perspective. We asked 12 county bosses for their predictions and wish list for the year ahead.
1. Uday Dholakia, chairman, Leicestershire Asian Business Association
"Our main aim is to keep the level of confidence up.
"There's businesses that haven't made employees redundant and kept the main part of the business. There's underlying confidence among our members.
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"Access to working capital is still a big issue.
"The problem is when an opportunity comes you have to go for it, but if you haven't got funding from the banks you need an alternative.
"We need a more upbeat approach from local government to help boost Leicester."
2. Sarah Harrison, Leicester city centre director
"Top of the wish list is to try and increase the number of visitors to the city centre.
"We need more people staying for longer and spending more.
"It will be challenging for retailers, but it's not just about the economic climate but the changing face of retail.
"I'm pretty sure there will be more collapses and a reduction in the number of outlets.
"However, I think we will see consumers taking more notice of independent retailers.
"I think we'll also see more pop-up shops, where vacant units are filled by landlords who give temporary leases."
3. Kevin Harris, deputy chairman, Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce and partner, Cooper Parry, Leicester
"I think generally it's going to be another tough year.
"It will be as tough as 2012, and in some areas tougher.
"There will be potential for growth for some, but it's not going to be mind-blowing for anyone.
"The area that could see growth overall will be the export market.
"It's going to be important for any business to adapt quickly to what's happening.
"The art for any business is to be pretty flexible, keep the cost base down and spot opportunities."
4. Tim Watt, regional vice-chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, and chairman, Leicestershire Business Council
"A lot of people I've spoken to have said 'we are doing all right, but who knows what's around the corner?'
"All sorts of things are hanging in the wind which might happen.
"We would like to see a bit less doom and gloom being broadcast because an awful lot of it is about confidence building. Banks are looking to lend, but lack of confidence among companies has seen demand subside.
"We would like to think we could get a bit more confidence going and test all the good work we are hearing about the banking system."
5. John Jennings, chairman of the Institute of Directors in Leicestershire and operations director at pensions firm Hornbuckle Mitchell, in Leicester
"My main aim for 2013 is to focus on staff engagement, training and development and deliver improving levels of customer service which, in turn, drives profit growth.
"Whether things improve or get worse depends on which industry sector you are talking about.
High street retail will probably continue to have a tough time.
" I expect the economy as a whole to bump along the bottom of the growth predictions for the first six months before (eurozone crisis permitting) we start to see better growth figures leading into 2014.
"Hopefully, unemployment figures, particularly for young people, will continue to fall.
"My biggest concern is that the Government could miss the opportunity to introduce more radical tax changes for individuals and businesses that can stimulate improved economic growth.
"It could help businesses by removing red tape and bureaucracy."
6. Helen Johnson, president of Leicestershire Law Society and co-founder of county law firm Emery Johnson, which has offices in Leicester and Loughborough
"In 2013 Emery Johnson will consolidate our position in the county and city by opening a new office in Coalville.
"This year, Leicestershire Law Society (LLS) will work hard to remain both relevant and accessible in the changing legal landscape.
"Unfortunately, I don't think 2013 will be an easy year for anyone in business but those working in the legal profession are well used to challenges and I expect the best legal practices to introduce innovative ways of working and delivering their advice.
"There remains a lack of women in senior positions and, in 2013, I hope employers will recognise the loss of these highly skilled individuals is detrimental to their business, and our society as a whole.
"LLS aim to promote Leicestershire as a centre of excellence."
7. Mandip Rai is the head of Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, which is based in New Walk, Leicester
"Our Business Survey for 2012 concluded there was a growing sense of economic optimism for the year ahead compared to 12 months ago.
"Businesses in the manufacturing and logistics sectors, in particular, are planning to grow over the next 12 months and there is a better outlook among businesses generally.
"My biggest concern is the impact that the crisis in the eurozone and in the US will continue to have on the UK economy.
"The LLEP welcomes the Government's response to Lord Heseltine's review to devolve more powers and funding to local areas."
8. Richard Freeman is the managing director of hi-tech engineering firm Zeeko in Coalville and was named Leicester Mercury Business Executive of the Year 2012
"Zeeko might be described as having had a 'good recession' if such a thing is possible.
"We have been prepared to take calculated risks and have invested to introduce many new products.
"In addition, we have built bridgeheads in our overseas markets by opening local overseas operations, most notably in Japan.
"Our ambition is to build on that and open a similar facility in China this year and build on the facility already in the USA.
"In order to support these efforts, we have plans to double the size of our factory in Coalville.
"This will go ahead if we can obtain support from Government (both local and central) to assist with some of the investments we are making and to help mitigate some of the risk we are taking.
"If either central government or local government are truly serious about helping SMEs (and the anecdotal evidence is that they are not), then they have to assist the small business community in their relentless endeavours to access finance."
9. Amanda Phillips, manager, Haymarket Shopping Centre, Leicester
"I want to enhance the retail offer and improve on what we already have in the Haymarket.
"I think retail is in for another tough year, but one of the benefits of the Haymarket is that we are aimed at the family end of the market.
"Our footfall is brilliant and our retailers do quite well, so I do think it will be on a par with 2012.
"I'm a great believer in business improvement districts, so I think it would be excellent if we had a bid for one in Leicester.
"Having said that, the authorities would have to ensure they did not hike up business rates."
10. Steve Goodman, spokesman, Leicestershire CBI
"The CBI wants to see some growth in the economy and is lobbying the Government on a range of issues such as reducing business regulation, investing in infrastructure, and education and skills.
"I think 2013 is going to be a slow year because of the eurozone – if it goes right, things could get better, though it could get worse.
"The CBI supports the Government in trying to deal with the deficit.
"But we've seen that the timetable has been extended and that's going to continue for some time."
11. Nick Taylor, manager, Fat Cat bar and restaurant, Leicester
"We have some ideas to expand and capitalise on the good year we had last year.
"In our industry, the weather is quite an important factor so I hope we have a better summer than the awful one we had in 2012.
"I think it would also be good to see the city council improve the look of Belvoir Street.
"It's probably the last remaining street in the city centre that's not been spruced up."
12. Bill Smedley, managing director, RG&P architects, Leicester
"We have started the year really well and are finding that house-builders are continuing to grow their businesses by building more.
"We are finding more work that way and developers are coming back into the market.
"My biggest concern is the banks staying with us.
"We have no problems, although we do have an overdraft facility.
"But the banks are not investing in companies our size and it is still hard to get money for research and development out of them.
"The city council could be investing in local companies by sourcing more services from consultancies, architects, project engineers. The mayor is keen on that, but we've not seen it coming through yet."