SECURING a speaker of Heather Mills’ stature is a real coup for event organisers who have made no secret of the fact they want EMCON to be regarded as an expo of national importance, capable of attracting the biggest names from the engineering and manufacturing sectors across the UK.

For the past 11 years EMCON has established a place at the heart of the regional networking and events calendar.

For companies in the North-East, it is the ‘must-attend’ event of the year, not only giving them a chance to showcase their business to hundreds of people, but to meet existing and potential clients and suppliers all under one roof.

This year, though, the hype is greater than ever with the announcement that VBites owner and award-winning businesswoman Heather Mills is to be the event’s keynote speaker.

s Mills, who has taken over the former Walkers Crisps factory in Peterlee to accommodate the continued growth of her business, will speak about the VBites brand, giving an insight into her entrepreneurial journey by outlining her plans for the area, why she chose to extend her vegan empire in the North-East and her thoughts on the future of the business and its plans for growth.

She will then take part in the industry leaders’ panel debate which is being delivered by the Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN) in association with delivery partner Jackson Hogg Recruitment.

Ms Mills will be joined on the panel by successful business figures Valda Goodfellow, Ryan Maughan and Steven Parker, all of whom have used digital technology and social media as affective tools to grow their business.

Valda is managing director of Goodfellow and Goodfellow, a fine dining specialist catering provider which counts some of the country’s leading Michelin star chefs and restaurants – as well as five-star hotels – among its customer base.

The Peterlee-based company, which has also seen its products appear on the likes of Great British Menu and MasterChef, has predominantly built up its multi-million pound business using social media and digital marketing.

Ryan Maughan is the managing director of Cramlington-based AVID Technology Group, a leader in the design and manufacture of electrified powertrain components and systems for heavy-duty and high-performance electric (EV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV).

Steven is managing director of Digital Allies which, from its headquarters in Gateshead, services clients in a range of sectors including education, retail and e-commerce, leisure, hospitality and professional services.

The company is a full-service digital marketing company which supports its clients in all elements of digital marketing, encouraging them to embrace digital as an important tool in their growth.

Ben Gilhespy, operations director at the EMN, said: “There’s no doubt that the announcement of Heather Mills’ involvement in our event has generated a significant amount of interest.

“People are genuinely interested in her story and want to learn more about her plans for the area.

“I think the fact that she’s also going to participate in the panel debate is even more of a pull, as those in attendance will have the chance to ask her and the other participants questions.

“It’s a real coup for our event and is a testament to the growth EMCON has undergone since it launched back in 2008.”

Fat Hippo has been confirmed as the catering provider and through its Fat Hippo Fleet brand will offer both meat and vegan options for attendees. The company was chosen following its successful involvement with Business Durham’s Food Truck Friday initiative.

Jake Smith, operations director of the Fat Hippo Fleet, said: “We are delighted to partner up with EMCON to provide catering for this year’s event.

“Diners can expect tasty meat, vegetarian and chicken burgers, all freshly made by the Fat Hippo Fleet team, with plenty of fillings and side dishes to choose from too.

“Our involvement in Food Truck Friday has been great for our profiling and has really helped to spread the word about our food. It’s also helped to change perceptions of the ‘burger van’ and show that tasty food can be served out of mobile caterings facilities. We’re confident EMCON will do the same.”

EMCON 2019 will also see the final year of the Incubator Zone programme which is delivered by LEC Communications and Design working with the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) team.

The programme is delivered with ERDF funding and enables new and growing SMEs from County Durham to exhibit at EMCON with tailored support to help them get as much back from taking part as possible.

There are just a few places left, so if you think your company could be eligible, visit

EMCON 2019 takes place on Thursday, October 10, at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe.

Stadler Rail UK is once again the event’s headline sponsor and will be delivering a session around its plans for UK growth, while Business Durham maintains its gold sponsorship status.

Other sponsors include GOM, Lumo Tax Consultants and Horizonworks, which are all silver sponsors, and E-max Systems, Air Compressors and Blowers North and Lemon Top Creative as bronze sponsors.