A guide to big business in Kent

5th September 2016

Kent punches far above its weight when it comes to contributing to the UK’s economy. Its relatively small population of 1.7m produces somewhere in the region of £18bn worth of goods and services and it’s home to some of the UK’s biggest companies. Kent business also covers and amazingly diverse number of industry sectors from tourism to pharmaceuticals.

In this article I want to look at some of the biggest employers in Kent and explore the range of businesses that the county has to offer. We’ll start up with a British institution which is headquartered right here in Kent.

Saga Group

Saga group has grown from modest beginnings in 1959, organising holiday trips for retired people, to become a global leisure, insurance and financial services goliath, with over 3 million customers in the over 50s market. It is based in Folkestone but also has a premise at the Eurokent Business Park in Ramsgate.

P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries is another national name firmly anchored in Kent. Its headquarters is near the company’s busiest ferry route in Dover, which it has been operating ferries out of since the 1960’s. 2015 has been a great year for P&O, with a 22% increase on the amount of freight being shipped across the channel by the company.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems is a Kent success story, as well as a British one. The Typhoon fighter jet helped the company strengthen its profits, as did its cyber and intelligence units (profits were up from £1.3bn to £1.5bn). BAE Systems is based in Rochester, which is also the location for the Electronic Systems division of the company.

Abbott Laboratories

Abbott Laboratories is a substantial global health care company with large offices in Maidenhead and Sittingbourne. Theresa May visited last year, to discuss the firm’s research on vascular care and diabetes and how it could be applied in the health service.

Laing O’Rourke

Also operating out of Dartford is Laing O’Rourke, the multinational construction company with a portfolio of public and private development projects in this country and across the world. The company has recently announced a major restructure to restore its profit margins. The business will be streamlined into fewer divisions and projects will be at the heart of what it does. Previously, it was organised geographically into European and Australian divisions. The new structure simply consists of two operating divisions.

Shepherd Neame

Shepherd Neame has been brewing beer in Faversham, Kent since 1698 and is the oldest brewery in Great Britain. The company is family owned and has been since 1864 and owns 338 pubs and hotels, mainly in South East England. It’s most renowned beers include Spitfire and Bishop’s Finger.

Gallagher Group

The Gallagher Group is one of the largest businesses in Kent, in private ownership. Its operations span civil engineering, ground works, quarrying and property. The company has been around for over 40 years and has completed groundworks for department stores such as John Lewis and Morrisons.

Reliable Contractors

Reliable Contractors in Margate specialises in supplying rail and civil engineering staff and was named as one of Kent’s 50 fastest growing businesses last year. The company has worked on some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the UK, including the Olympic Park and the new stations at Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road, as well as Crossrail.

MTS Cleaning Services

MTS is a waste collection and recycling company operating throughout southern Kent. The company is a huge regional employer with over 200 vehicles in its fleet, operating out of six depots. The company has grown rapidly in the last few years and is still owned by its founders who begun the company in 1986. The company has worked on water and waste projects including sewer cleaning on London’s Victoria Embankment and a lagoon clean at Whitacre Water Treatment Works in Birmingham.