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Cumbria SMEs playing vital role in keeping economy moving as lockdown continues

Phil Redfern, managing director of REACT Engineering in Cumbria

A BUSINESS known for solving some of the world’s most complex industrial challenges has emphasised the vital role SMEs are playing in keeping the economy moving as lockdown continues.

With no details yet on how and when lockdown restrictions might be eased, Phil Redfern, managing director of REACT Engineering, says SMEs which are able to continue their operations remotely are helping to:

  • protect the health, well-being and livelihoods of their teams
  • ensure people have money in their pockets to support local businesses and services, including when lockdown is eased
  • support other businesses and the clients they work with in their own supply chain by making sure projects are kept on track
  • make sure taxes are paid so that the government is able to fund vital public services such as the NHS and other key workers

With lockdown ongoing, Phil says their teams, other local businesses, wider public services, and the national economy are relying on SMEs to maintain their productivity.

Phil said: “It is quite right that so much attention has been, and continues to be, on the NHS and key workers as they are doing an amazing job and they are putting themselves in harm’s way to help the whole of society. We all owe them an enormous  debt of gratitude.

“But businesses, and SMEs like ours, have to play our part as well, as we need to generate the money to help fund these public services. Business needs to happen to generate the taxes to help pay for the NHS. We really are all in this together.”

New research conducted by the UK200Group, an organisation which represents the country’s leading law and accountancy firms, shows that of the 1,793 SME businesses who took part in the survey, 42 per cent have closed temporarily and 88 per cent have had to scale down or close.

REACT Engineering, which is based in Cleator Moor, has furloughed one member of its 40-strong team due to the fact that its office and reception is temporarily closed.

All the rest of the team are working from home and, helped by system support by David Allen IT systems in Carlisle, have continued to keep all their projects on track, holding  online meetings with clients and partners including Sellafield Limited and other members of the Cumbria Nuclear Solutions Limited (CNSL) joint venture.

Phil said: “It was our strategy going into this to try to keep our people in employment and to try to keep the team together where it was at all possible.

“First and foremost, our top priority was, and continues to be, the health and well-being of our people.

“Second was making sure we maintained our business activity for our people and our clients and the businesses we work with to keep people in employment, keep them being paid and protect their livelihoods.

“Thirdly it’s also about making sure they have money in their pockets so that they can support the local businesses and services who have been able to stay open and deliver, and those local businesses who have temporarily closed such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, hairdressers, gyms and other shops so that when they reopen people have the money to spend to support them and to help the economy fight back.”

Phil said: “The team have all been outstanding the way they have responded and adapted and kept all the work and the programmes on track. I have been really impressed. People have really gone the extra mile.

“They have shown how adaptable, flexible and solution-focused they are to get the job done to the same exacting standard in different circumstances.

“The way we operate is to encourage smart thinking and a solution-based approach to complex issues in industry. Our mantra is that we provide ‘smart answers to difficult problems’.

“We rely on our people, often young people, to take that responsibility from an early stage in their careers. That’s what enables us to innovate, to be agile, and it’s an approach which has certainly paid dividends in the way everyone has adapted so well to this situation.

“We finished a major project despite being in lockdown. We worked with fellow Cumbria SME Createc to successfully launch a new ALARP Angel product, designed to protect operators in high-hazard environments. I am so proud of everyone that we delivered the project on time to a tight timescale, despite all working from home.

“Although people are starting to think about what comes next after the lockdown, this is clearly still a very dynamic situation.

“Constraints on our lives are likely to be in place for some time to come and at REACT we are looking at how we can continue to operate effectively for our clients as we pass the peak of the virus whilst maintaining the safety and well-being of our workforce.

“The work of all the team means the business is in a strong position and that means we can continue to support the economy, both locally, and on a national scale by continuing to generate taxes to help fund public services such as the NHS and other key workers.

“That’s an important role which SMEs all over Cumbria, and all over the UK, are performing every day, and as lockdown continues, we need to keep showing that leadership and that commitment and keep doing our bit.”

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