CHALLENGES and opportunities within County Durham’s engineering and manufacturing industries will be the themes at a support organisation’s inaugural economic forum this week.

The County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN) has been created to support the county’s vast sectors and ensure employers in the area continue to grow.

On Thursday evening, the network will mark its first year in business by addressing an invited audience of business delegates and industry champions at Auckland Castle.

Presentations will be given by Professor John MacIntyre, Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Sunderland; Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland; Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary; and Lee Hopley, Chief Economist for the EEF.

They will be looking at some of the challenges facing companies in County Durham, and what they can be doing to put themselves in a stronger position for growth.

David Land, Chairman of CDEMN, said: “County Durham is home to a wealth of engineering and manufacturing companies, from the large inward investors and multi-nationals like Hitachi, Caterpillar and NSK Bearings, to our home-grown successes like Ebac, D & S Services and GT group.

“There are hundreds of employers across the county who are growing, investing in their workforce and breaking into new markets, and we want to ensure they continue to have access to the support they need to continue on that positive track.

“That’s exactly why we’ve launched the network which we believe can become the go-to support organisation for our engineering and manufacturing companies.”

Among the series of events CDEMN is managing is Durham Oktoberfest, which this year marks nine years since launching. The event takes place at the Xcel Centre in Newton Wycliffe on Thursday, October 20. Full details on the event will be announced in the coming weeks.