Business and Industry in Plymouth



In the past, the area around Plymouth had silver, tin and lead mines with the River Tamar being the centre for ships exporting the mined ores for over one thousand years. Those mines are now exhausted and yet still contribute to the economy of the local area. In the south west tourism brings in around three quarters of a billion pounds in business and is, therefore, a significant factor in the local economy of Plymouth. Plymouth has many tourist attractions and tourist accommodation facilities both within and nearby the city. To help service all the tourism there is of course a wide selection of bars and restaurants in the area offering employment opportunities. Plymouth is, of course, home to Plymouth Gin which is manufactured at the Black Friar distillery in Southside Street. Southside Street has been the home of the Black Friars distillery since 1793. It is now the only producer of Gin in the UK.

As for any port in the United Kingdom Plymouth has a fishing industry that stretches back across the centuries and is first recorded in the Doomsday book. Sadly, along with many other ports, the fishing industry in Plymouth virtually collapsed in the mid-1970s as European/international restrictions on fishing began to bite. Despite the increasing restrictions on fish quotas, fishing out of the port of Plymouth continues to play a part in the local economy, but on a much smaller scale. Apart from landing fish, the coast around Plymouth is well known to have a rich supply of scallops. Many local fishing boat owners supplement their income with 'Pleasure Fishing Cruises' for tourists. Plymouth port does not handle the volume of shipping it has done in the past. However, operating out of the Millbay docks, it is still used as a 'roll-on roll-off' port by Brittany ferries on their Roscoff (France) and Santander (Spain) routes, carrying both passengers and freight. The docks also provide berths for other ships and can facilitate the servicing of ships moored in Plymouth Sound.

A major employer in Plymouth is the DML group. DML was established in the 1980s to run the Royal Dockyard and, since 1997, it has owned it. The Royal Dockyard was, once upon a time, the most important and significant naval dockyard in the country. Now it is mainly in the private sector under DML with only a small part of it retained by the Royal Navy, which is now known as the 'Plymouth Naval Base'. DML in turn is owned by three other companies; Haliburton KBR, Balfour Beatty and the Weir Group. Therefore, as a group, DML has interests in oil extraction and production, building construction, transport infrastructure and defence engineering. Whilst DML is still involved in small ship and yacht manufacturing, its main source of work comes from the refurbishment and maintenance of ships and railway locomotives. Employing nearly 5000 people and with an annual turn-over of £400 million, it is a major employer in the south west of England.

The international conglomerate BAE Systems has a site in the Southway area of Plymouth, which is used in the construction of Platform Solutions, namely Gyros and IMUs (Inertial Motor Units). Such devices are widely used by military operators to provide platform stabilisation for gunfire systems, as well as flight controls for manned and unmanned machines. Originally known as UK Sperry Gyroscopes, Plymouth has over 90 years experience in the production of inertial sensors.

Toshiba Carrier UK, on the Belliver Industrial Estate in Plymouth manufactures air conditioning units ranging from small domestic ones to ones suitable for light commercial activities. Founded in Japan in 1875, Toshiba is now better known as a manufacturer of electronics goods. It has, however, been producing air conditioning units for over 30 years now.

Bluestone is a major national construction company which has its south west base located in Plymouth. The company works mainly on publicly funded contracts such as building schools and hospitals.

Although relatively one of the smaller employers in Plymouth, Gleason's has a long tradition of working in the town. Gleason's is a manufacturer of cutting tools and gear, which were vital to the development of the once large ship building industries that were here. Now employing 150 people with an annual turn-over of about £20 million, it still provides tools to other local industries and companies across the UK such as Toyota, Ford and Black & Decker.

Present in Plymouth for over 20 years, Rittal-CSM, in Roborough Plymouth, manufactures enclosures and work-stations for IT equipment located in business and industrial settings. It employs some 700 personnel and exports its products world-wide and has an annual turn-over approaching £70 million.

At the Tamar Business Park, Plymouth has the Information Technology Transfer Centre. The function of the centre is to develop and apply digital technologies in innovative ways, thereby encouraging 'high tech' businesses to locate themselves in the Plymouth area. It specialises in finding ways to develop the use of imaging technology such as 3D scanning and rapid prototyping.

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