Once famous for the manufacture of cloth, worsted in particular, the trade has almost ceased to exist in Norwich. Just about the only reminder of the trade in cloth are the tall three story buildings, with dormer windows, that were used to house the looms used in its production. Norwich is now mainly dependent on the service economy for its employment opportunities; the city has attracted over 50 national or regional headquarters of major UK firms and has four of the UKs fastest growing businesses based there. With a total of some 3,000 employers in the area around Norwich, over 75% of them employ five people or fewer. Hence, small businesses are of vital importance to local employment opportunities. Whilst agriculture, another historically important activity in the area, is still important in terms of contributing to the local economy, it now employs only about 8% of the local residents.
Norwich Union is undoubtedly the most famous company in Norwich and it is a lso the largest employer, employing 8000 local residents. The company is involved in the insurance, assurance, finance and health sectors of the economy and has assets in excess of ÃÂ£300 billion. It is estimated that overall one in four people in Norwich work in a finance or business related environment. Being the city where Barclays bank first started doing business it is perhaps fitting that Virgin Money has its registered office in Discovery House on Whiting Road in Norwich. Virgin Money, with assets in excess of ÃÂ£2.5 billion, is part of the hugely successful Virgin group and was launched in 1995 by the owner, Richard Branson. Virgin Money employs over 400 people in Norwich and the Virgin group employs 35,000 people world-wide. Moneyfacts is a paper and electronic publisher of unbiased financial data, based in Norwich which employs about 115 people. Another company working in the finance sector is Central Trust, which is sited at Austen House in Stannard Place, and e mploys approximately 350 employees. The company is a provider of financial services, loans, and has assets of around ÃÂ£50 million.
Currently owned by the Malaysian car manufacturing company Proton, Group Lotus has for more than 50 years been renowned for producing sports cars of quality and distinction. Its current range of models are the; Elise, Exige, Europa and the 2-Eleven which re-introduces the motoring philosophy of the old Lotus-7. Whilst the glory days of F1 motor-racing are gone for Lotus, it is still an important employer in Norwich. Its staff of about 1000 produce over 3000 cars a year. The high reputation in which Lotus Engineering, another arm of Group Lotus, is held can be demonstrated in the fact that 10% of all car engines sold in Europe were designed by Lotus. Group Lotus is located at Potash Lane in Hethel. Lotus are not the only company working in the motor trade near Norwich, Racing Technology (Norfolk) Ltd employs 40 people in a purpose built fa ctory at Hingham and designs and manufactures composite bodies, mainly for racing cars, for customers such as Audi, Volkswagen and Bugatti. The company employs around 100 staff including managers, designers and marketing staff. Another company, Triking Cycle Cars Ltd, specialises in making three wheeled 'kit' cyclecars.
The Norwich Research Park is typical of the forward looking attitude that the city is taking to its future employment prospects. The park is a site of concentrated research sponsored by several companies into Health, Food and Environmental sciences and provides employment for around 9000 people. Other hi-tech companies located in Norwich include Syfer Technology Ltd, located at Arminghall in 'state of the art' premises, who are acknowledged as a world leader in the production of multi-layer components to the electronics industry. This essentially means they produce capacitors and filters for electronic circuit boards. Located nearby in Diss is Hamlin El ectronics, they manufacture position and movement sensors that are important to features of car safety. Adobe, the company behind many software applications, has one of its two European development centres in Norwich.
Whilst the number of people working in agriculture has fallen, the farming industry still provides employment opportunities through companies involved in processing locally grown produce. Most famous of the food producing companies must surely be Bernard Matthews. Involved in both the farm rearing of the birds and the processing of them Bernard Matthews is a house-hold name in the UK when it comes to any fowl related produce. With its head office and processing plant at Great Witchingham Hall outside Norwich, it employs close on 1000 people locally and some 6000 world-wide. Started in 1950 by Bernard Matthews the company is now the biggest producer of turkeys in Europe and has an annual turn-over of more than ÃÂ£400 million. The company takes great pride in using farms in the east of England to rear the turkeys that it processes at its 12 hectare centre of operations.
One recent success in this area has been the development of Kettle Foods. With its registered office on Bowthorpe kettle Foods are best known for their range of potato snacks that they produce which contain "absolutely nothing artificial". Unilever has a factory in Carrow, Norwich, producing Colman's Mustard, a product that has been made in the city for over 180 years. Coleman's has been owned by Unilever since 1995 and is the oldest established arm of the company.