Hundreds of businesses are following up leads after the tenth Durham Oktoberfest, held in Newton Aycliffe last week.

The engineering and manufacturing expo attracted record exhibitors and footfall as companies large and small met new contacts, refreshed old acquaintances and showcased some of the best the sectors have to offer.

The event was opened by County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN) Chairman David Land and Phil Wilson MP.

David Land said: “We went all out to make the tenth Oktoberfest the best yet, in terms of numbers, quality and the event line up, and this was certainly achieved.

“Feedback from exhibitors and attendees has been fantastic and we know many of them have forged new links with companies that they will be following up which we hope will lead to contracts being agreed.

“The addition of the Incubator Zone proved particularly popular and we’re confident many of those involved for the first time will return next year as fully -fledged exhibitors.”

The Incubator Zone was a dedicated space for companies who have never before exhibited and was delivered in partnership with LEC Communications and Design and the Durham Business Opportunities Programme with ERDF support. Twenty one companies from across County Durham took part and all are now pursuing promising leads which they hope to convert to new business.

This year’s event also featured the University of Sunderland’s AMAP North East Maintenance Forum; a rail opportunities themed seminar with the Rail Alliance, Business Durham and CDEMN; a finance forum with Maven North East; and an international trade workshop with Department for International Trade.

Over lunchtime there was a panel debate which proved hugely popular and looked at the challenges and opportunities for businesses around Brexit. Participants were David Land, Phil Wilson MP, Abi Broadley from Aquarius Rail, Lee Childs from Sora, Richard Hogg from Jackson Hogg, Michael Smith from Tait Walker and Kevin Maloney from Muckle LLP, all bringing their own field of expertise.

The popular Education Zone with New College Durham, Hartlepool College of Further Education, the South Durham UTC, South West Durham Training/Bishop Auckland College and the University of Sunderland also returned showcasing the skills employers can expect to find when taking on their next tranche of apprentices.

Lucy Prior, membership development and international trade director at the Rail Alliance, said: “It was great to be part of Durham Oktoberfest, delivering our rail seminar in partnership with Business Durham and CDEMN. We’ve had so much positive feedback from those who attended our session which is great.

“The rail sector presents massive opportunities for regional companies and that’s what we wanted to get across.”

CDEMN Operations Director Ben Gilhespy added: “Once again we have built of the platform on the success of previous years and delivered more exhibitors, greater footfall and most importantly, opportunities to engage, network, learn and win business.”