Dozens of companies from the West Midlands have headed to an event promoting the defence sector against a backdrop of cost-cutting. Graeme Brown speaks to bosses about how they are coping with the age of austerity
Firms supplying to the defence sector are heading to an event to drum up business just days after thousands of redundancies were announced in the armed forces.
Companies from the West Midlands admit they have been hampered by stalling contracts on the back of cuts in budgets for the armed forces, but they claim there are still opportunities in the sector.
The claim came ahead of the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) event taking place this week, which gives firms a platform to exhibit their products.
Among those to attend will be Shropshire-based Wrekin Circuits, for which about 20 per cent of its £2.2 million turnover comes from aerospace, defence and security.
Andy Morris, sales and marketing manager, said that while the firm has come up against efficiency drives, a shake-up in the defence sector has opened doors for the firm.
He said: “We see it is as a potential growth sector for us. Within that market our products go into things like power supplies, fighting vehicles, brake systems for aircraft, communications systems and submarines.”
He added: “Because of the sensitive nature of defence products, quite often the end user is concerned about security and quite often for that reason it has to stay in the Nato area.
“It is a double whammy for Wrekin because quite often defence-type contracts tend to be low volume and high quality, which is to our benefit.
“We also benefit because for security reasons they would insist that it would be made in the EU.”
The UK’s £37 billion annual defence budget is being reduced by eight per cent over the next four years as a result of last year’s spending review.
Amid a £38 billion black hole in its procurement budget, the Government announced earlier this month that almost 2,000 jobs would be axed across the forces – 930 from the RAF, 920 from the army and 140 Gurkhas.
Mr Morris said the company has identified defence – a sector that employs around 300,000 people in the UK – as a potential growth area.
The firm, which has 38 employees, foresees growth, mainly in the UK but also in Australia.
Mr Morris added: “During the downturn when the Ministry of Defence cutbacks were starting to take place we saw projects being delayed. They were never being cancelled but things supposed to be happening in March were being moved to November and so on.