By Daniel Hunter

In the current economic climate, business confidence plays an important role in defining the outlook for a region and affects long-term growth and investment.

In April 2012, BDO, in conjunction with The Twenties Club, launched the inaugural BDO Thames Valley Business Barometer - a quarterly snapshot of business and economic confidence in the region.

Over 120 senior Thames Valley business leaders from a cross section of companies completed the first quarterly survey, which was combined with in-depth company interviews including Ultima Business Solutions, GCS Recruitment, SEGRO, Achilles Group and Grundon Waste Management.

Participants were given the opportunity to review their own performance and prospects, comment on confidence in the region and have their say on the local economy.

The results

The Business Barometer reveals that The Thames Valley is bucking the trend as almost two thirds of businesses witness growth. New business pipelines have increased for the majority of the businesses surveyed (64 per cent) in the last three months.

More than half witnessed an increase in turnover in the last quarter, and 61 per cent predict further growth in the next quarter (rising to 67 per cent for SMEs within the sample).

Profits are up too for 47 per cent of respondents but companies are still under pressure to deliver more for less and, despite optimistic order books and outputs, approximately half report no overall improvement in general economic conditions.

Looking forward, investment intentions are strong. Winning new business, staff development and advancements in technology are key investment areas for the region’s business leaders; with almost half looking to increase marketing spend in the next three months and a third investing in training & development and technology. Investing in new fleet & transport and property is not on the agenda in the short-term, with just 3 per cent and 8 per cent respectively planning to invest in these areas.

Alongside the need for investment in education and skills across the region, the majority of local businesses see the availability of finance as the major challenge for businesses in the Thames Valley, with just one in ten saying it has become easier in the last quarter.

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