In our latest ‘It’s My Business’ feature we chat to Ben Gilhespy, operations director of the Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN).

The organisation is now the largest sector-based network in the region and supports members, businesses and organisations with their plans for continued growth.

Here Ben tells us more about how EMN has evolved.


The Engineering and Manufacturing Network has grown rapidly since it launched four years ago. Tell us more about its journey and expansion?

The network was originally known as CDEMN and was created from the amalgamation of the three County Durham engineering forums in the north, south and east of the county.

Initially our focus was on businesses within County Durham however as we grew, we realised there was more of an appetite from companies across the North East to be involved with us. So last year we re-branded to the Engineering and Manufacturing Network in reflection of our position as a regional network.

How many members does the network have now?

We support around 300 member companies, around 10 of which have affiliate status which means they’re our ‘go to’ company within their sector. That number continues to grow as businesses hear more about the help and advice we’re able to offer them.

What sort of support does the network offer members?

We can work with businesses to access grant and funding support if they have particular plans to grow. We have strong relationships with all of the regional funding bodies so are able to determine which route is most appropriate based on what the business wants or needs.

We can also offer advice to members based on our own expertise or drawing on the support of our affiliates if the requirement is area specific, for example accountancy, communications or recruitment related.

Through the database we are frequently made aware of opportunities for companies to win business, for example we might be approached by a company that is looking for a steel fabrication firm to support on a particular project, so we can approach our members to see if any have the skillset and resources and would be interested.

The whole ethos of the network is to support businesses so they can ultimately grow and prosper, and we make it our mission to always achieve that – even if it’s something beyond our remit, we can always point them in the direction of one of our contacts that can help.

You recently appointed a network support manager didn’t you. Tell us about that?

Yes, we’ve taken on Kaye Collins to support member engagement. Kaye brings a wealth of experience to the role and will be a real asset to the network and members as we continue to grow.

EMN manages the EMCON event, now in its 12th year. Why do you think the event is such a success?

I think because not only is it a fantastic networking event, bringing together hundreds of businesses and people from the engineering and manufacturing sectors, but it’s also a proven platform to winning work. Companies of all sizes want to be involved and return year after year because they get so much from it. Just this year, one of our member companies, E-max Systems, is returning as a sponsor after winning over £170,000 of contracts from exhibiting. That’s exactly what we want and there’s no greater testament to what our event offers than that.