Over the past year, 13% of firms had remained stable, reporting the same turnover, while 28% said turnover had fallen or that they had lost staff.
About 1,700 businesses, including many food and drink firms, were included in the survey conducted by the Marketing Birmingham Regional Observatory and the Greater Birmingham and Solihul Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).
Marek Dobrowolski, investment manager at the city’s investment programme Birmingham Business, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The research reveals the depth of SME’s [small- to medium-sized enterprise’s] resilience within the recession.”
Birmingham’s location at the heart of the country’s road and rail networks had helped small firms prosper despite the recession, he said. About 1M live in the city and a further 5.4M within an hour’s drive.
Reflecting those advantages about 300 food and drink businesses, including bakery and confectionery firms, employing 15,000 people were located in the West Midlands, said Dobrowolski. About 95% of those were SMEs.
In total, Birmingham and the Black Country are home to nearly 80,000 SMEs.
Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said: “It has been said that SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and a barometer for business conditions.
“If so, our findings indicate that the local business community could be looking more confidently to the future and are ready to explore opportunities to develop their operations. This is encouraging as where confidence exists, growth often follows.”
Access to funding
But weak demand and poor access to funding continued to restrain growth of some small firms – both in the food and drink sector and in general manufacturing.
Commenting on the research, Chris Loughran, senior partner at Deloitte Midlands, said: “SMEs across the GBSLEP and the Black Country area are fighting hard to grow and boost employment but are restricted by lack of finance.
“As credit remains difficult to access, it is crucial for these businesses to watch their costs closely to maintain the right level of working capital and identify the areas where investing that money can make a real difference to driving product demand. Investing can often ease the road to growth.”
West Midlands food and drink SMEs
- 59% report growth in the past 12 months
- 23% achieved high growth
- 13% remained stable
- 27% lost staff or declined in turnover
Source: Marketing Birmingham Regional Observatory and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership