‘Power from poo’ is jewel in the crown for water boss

ONE of the region’s leading FTSE companies has laid out its ambitions to be the UK’s best sustainable water and waste water company in the near future, a meeting of entrepreneurs was told.

 Northumbrian Water Ltd’s (NWL) chief executive, Heidi Mottram, has set a course for the company which will see it aim to overhaul its competitors in the coming years across a range of indicators.

 Speaking at the North East Chamber of Commerce’s (NECC) County Durham AGM, Mrs Mottram, said that NWL was already an industry leader in areas such as advanced anaerobic digestion – or ‘making power from poo’, as she described it.

 In addition, the company – which is one of the region’s largest private sector employers – has an 82% customer satisfaction rate; was voted best value for money by the water industry watchdog CCWater and has retained its Platinum Plus status from Business In The Community. At its core, NWL also has a strong commitment to the region and is supporting local supply chains with at least 63% of the services it contracts and products it buys supplied by North East companies.

 Mrs Mottram added: “We are doing great. There are some things Northumbrian Water is already an industry leader at such as the treatment of sewage and quality of effluent that we put back into the streams and rivers of the county we are based in. Our safety record is good and we know from our invoices that at least 63% of the money we spend is in our local supply chain. I am fairly confident that the actual figure is in excess of 80%.”

 While the incoming coalition Government had created a large amount of change in the make-up of regional governance, particularly replacing One North East with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Mrs Mottram said there was an opportunity for businesses to play a greater role in shaping the North East economy.

 She said: “I feel a strong personal sense that what the Government is saying is ‘You guys make a success of it’ and I want to play my part in making sure that success comes to our region. Let’s not let anybody else in any part of the country steal a march on us.”

 Martyn Pellew, NECC President, had earlier told more than 50 companies present at the general meeting that a large amount of work was being carried out to give the North East a national voice. He said: “Since the change of government last May our agenda has been all about getting business growth back on track. We have been working very hard to take forward that business agenda. This is a great opportunity for your voices as businesses to be heard and to make a difference for local people.”

 John Mowbray, NECC Durham Committee chairman and director of corporate affairs at Northumbrian Water, told the meeting that while the trading environment was still difficult there had been some real high points for the county in the past year.

 Mr Mowbray pointed to impressive tourism growth which had brought an extra £25m into the local economy, boosted overnight visits by 16% in Durham City and seen a total of 23% of all visitors to the North East coming to County Durham as cause for celebration. He also predicted that a second Lumiere festival , the planned visit of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Ashes Test in 2013 would maintain the tourism momentum.

 Elsewhere, the Hitachi train announcement, the award of Best UK Market to the Durham Indoor Markets company, the development of Durhamgate and the continued growth and success of NETPark are all recent highlights.

 He said: “Durham is an exciting place to be right now. Hopefully, we will go from strength to strength.”

 NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham had earlier opened the general meeting with an appraisal of the past 12 months which he said had been a “year of varied fortunes”.

 He added: “Manufacturers, particularly those that are exporting, have enjoyed low current rates and markets around the world offering phenomenal opportunity. This sector has grown at twice the national rate.”

 However, he said that it had been a much tougher in both the service sector and construction.

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