The TOP75:

Survey results

Business sectors

Market locations

Number of employees

Company turnover for the last financial year

Business confidence (1 being highest, 5 being lowest)

Expecting staff numbers to grow in the next 18 months

Expecting to be involved in mergers or acquisitions in the next 18 months

Expecting to increase or decrease prices in the next 18 months

Relationship with bank

Currently have debt with bank

Feel that the region's infrastructure adversely affects ability to grow business

Which elements of the infrastructure impact business the most

Challenging business factors in 2011

Opportunities for business in 2011

When last year’s EDP Business Guide was launched we focused on the strength in depth and diverse nature of the businesses that shape our economic landscape.

We attributed the region’s relative resilience throughout the recession to a long list of successful businesses operating across a wide range of sectors. However, we also mentioned that we weren’t out of the woods.

A year later, the same cautionary note applies. Recent anaemic economic data and retailers’ profit warnings mean that we’re not yet back to the "good old days".

The impact of the government’s public-sector spending cuts, which have yet to be really felt, are likely to have a further adverse effect on consumer confidence and spending.

So it is interesting (and encouraging) to study the results of the survey, which suggest that businesses in this region feel they are getting closer to the edge of the woods.

There are more causes for optimism now than we may have foreseen back in the cold light of 2008/9.

The trend of falling corporate insolvency levels during the recession has been atypical, partly due to a combination of factors which have provided breathing space for many struggling businesses.

Low interest rates, increased time to pay agreements by HMRC, and in a number of cases a more supportive attitude from secured lenders have helped.

Across the UK, the eastern region has seen the most improvement with the number of insolvencies having dropped by 17.1pc in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the prior quarter.

This sentiment is reflected in the results of the survey where 97pc indicated that their banking relationship was either good or neutral.

Against the backdrop of a fiscally neutral Budget back in March, the chancellor announced a wide range of measures aimed at promoting growth, generally welcomed by business.

According to our survey, this mood of careful optimism is felt by many of our local businesses across a wide variety of sectors and size.

When asked to rate their business confidence on a scale of one to five (one being the highest), a combined 48pc chose options one and two.

Asked whether they expected turnover to grow over the next 18 months, 90pc said yes and 88pc expected their staff numbers to increase over the same period.

With the long-awaited announcement at the end of last year that the A11 dualling will at last go ahead, it was interesting to note that 42pc of those surveyed indicated that the region’s road infrastructure impacts their ability to grow their business.

Broadband connectivity came in second, with 16pc identifying it as an issue for them. Top of the list of factors that would be a challenge in 2011, however, were customer price pressures and the rising cost of fuel, cited by 32pc of those surveyed.

As for opportunities, 34pc of respondents were looking to their existing customers for growth while 28pc identified new product/service development as a key driver of continued success.

Without underestimating the challenges ahead, the survey demonstrates underlying confidence in the region’s businesses.

Chris Maw is senior partner at PWC’s Norwich office and James Hunter is partner at Mills & Reeve in Norwich.