Local businesses often complain that they are ignored as suppliers when big local infrastructure projects are in the pipeline, and this may have been true in the past.
Certainly, it was a complaint when the second nuclear power station, Sizewell B, was being built in Suffolk between 1987 and 1995.
However, with two new projects in the pipeline, at Hinckley Point, Somerset, and at Sizewell, Suffolk, that situation appears to have changed.
In both cases, the respective Chambers of Commerce are already engaged with main contractors EDF Energy and partners asking local businesses to register their interest as supplies to the project.
Both projects already have dedicated websites specifically for interested businesses to find out more and register their interest and provide details of what they supply so they can be invited to tender for works and mini-projects. There is a wealth of guidance, support and information on how to become suppliers. The information on both is available on the EDF Energy website.
No business is too small to become a supplier
Many local businesses may think they are too small to be involved in such projects. While this may have been the case in the past there has been a change of emphasis to offer opportunities to local businesses, particularly those that provide quick response to mini-projects as they arise and those who provide service support.
Inevitably, there will be local labour opportunities for project managers, engineers, surveyors and construction workers with many of these being sourced from afar.
There are many opportunities to provide support for the non-local labour, such as accommodation, whether Bed and Breakfast, short term lets or portable buildings on site. Given that most sites are in rural locations, transport and catering facilities will also be needed. One example of the new initiative working is the catering at Hinkley Point C where a number of local firms submitted and won the tender to provide the on-site catering. Each firm including local bakers and caterers did not feel they could lead the contract by themselves but with support from the Hinkley Supply Chain Enabling Team and leadership from Somerset Chamber of Commerce they succeeded. Another example was the need to build a bridge to help conserve local badgers, this £350k contract was awarded to a small firm of local builders.
In addition to on-site opportunities the influx of a large temporary population offers scope for opportunities in the surrounding area. These include local shops, sports and leisure facilities, entertainment, healthcare and transport.
So, it is a mistake for any local SME to think it is either too small or its business is not relevant to a big infrastructure project. The possibilities are many, and they are only limited by the imagination.