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Strong local supply chain is vital – McPhillips boss urges businesses to sign up for event

“Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of what’s happening in this region. This is a golden opportunity for the construction sector in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to come together, support each other and help build our supply chain and the local economy.”

That was the message from one of the county’s leading contractors ahead of the Project Pipeline event on March 22 in Shrewsbury.

Be Bold Media spoke to Paul Inions, managing director of McPhillips (Wellington) Ltd and a committee member of Shropshire Constructing Excellence, about why businesses working across the industry should attend and why being part of a network is so important.

Q: Your company is celebrating 60 years this year, how has McPhillips’ core business changed over the years?

A: The business has evolved from a small sub-contractor to a main civil engineering contractor to what we are today – an mulit-disciplinary main regional contractor. We’re an award-winning partner to a number of local authorities and private sector companies which trust us to deliver on budget and on time. We used to just dig holes, now we do sewers, dogs’ homes, fire stations, a crematorium – pretty much anything!

We have 250 people directly employed by us, and probably 150 sub-contractors who can be anything from a one-man band to a small company. We also have a strong local supply chain to support us with building developments.

Q: What are the main headwinds facing the sector at the moment and how is McPhillips facing the challenges?

A: I would say the instability in the economy is the biggest challenge facing the industry at the moment. Our margins are very, very thin. We always work on fixed price contracts, but our supply chain can’t subscribe to that so any volatility in the market causes very big issues.

I read somewhere that 12 construction firms a day are going to the wall. The problem is, every time a firm goes bust, they take others with them. We have seen some very big construction businesses go under in recent years, but it’s the impact on the supply chain which goes unnoticed, this is livelihoods we are talking about. It’s very difficult.

Q: Is it important for McPhillips to be delivering projects locally and working with local people?

A: The local economy is very important to us – we strive to work locally. I live between Telford and Dudley so I drive in on the ‘rabbit run’ every day – it frustrates me enormously that I follow our competitors’ vans into the county and see our vans going the other way. We are all guilty of this but there is more than enough work in the county to keep us all busy.

Q: How important is a strong local supply chain? And how important is it for the sector to be aware of projects coming up which they might be able to be part of?

A: A strong local supply chain is vital, and I bang the drum for us to do business with the local supply chain wherever possible. It’s not always possible, and sometimes that’s just because we don’t always know who’s out there, but the more the better. Using local contractors and suppliers means we keep the Shropshire pound in Shropshire.

For example, we have two projects going on at Hortonwood in Telford. I would imagine that we could get 70 to 80 per cent of everything we need from businesses based in Telford or Shropshire. It frustrates me that we don’t, but we do strive to buy local where possible.


Q: How do to you see the role of SCE – the Midlands Constructing Excellence Shropshire club – developing Shropshire’s construction sector and the supply chain?

A: It’s an avenue to network, where we can share issues with recruitment, wages, whatever. We all have our own challenges which we deal with, but the issue someone else might be having today may be something we dealt with three weeks ago – if we have an opportunity to share solutions, we should.

We can try to help each other and in turn save time and costs.

I think it’s easier to get to talk to people at networking events. People often say they can’t get hold of me at the office, but at a networking event it’s easier to chat for a couple of minutes and hand over a business card than it is to try to cold call someone.

Q: Who should attend the Project Pipeline event?

A: SCE is a group of like-minded people supporting businesses in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin in the construction sector. The Project Pipeline event will give an overview from both councils of what big projects are coming up over the next 10 years, and it is an opportunity for all to get involved.

There are lots of businesses that could benefit, from main contractors to the wider supply chain.

In Telford, Station Quarter will bring a boost to the local economy. There is still a big need for housing in Telford and Shropshire, so I expect national housebuilders will be looking to develop here.

In Shrewsbury, the North West Relief Road will generate further development opportunities as new people come into the county. It’s a bit like our HS2 – love it or loathe it, HS2 brings a lot of opportunities!

Q: The event on March 22 is a ‘multi-billion opportunity’ – what’s your message to companies who haven’t booked yet?

A: Don’t miss out! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of what’s happening in the county. We would all be kicking ourselves if we didn’t get an opportunity just because we haven’t subscribed.


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