MORE than 800 people crammed into a huge hangar at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford earlier this week to learn how to survive the economic downturn. They also heard a combative former Amstrad boss-turned-Government Minister, Lord Sugar, offer some trenchant thoughts on small companies, to which the FSB took instant exception. Among the visitors to the East of England Development Agency's flagship conference, Destination Growth 09, on Tuesday, was Julia Lewing, director of Somersham-based Intelligent Radio Solutions Limited, who had won her free tickets through The Hunts Post. She said: "EEDA provided a comprehensive, detailed programme of interesting and diverse speakers including nationally-known Greg Dyke and Michelle Mone, along with different exhibitor stands. However for me, as a director of a locally-based small company, interested and concerned for our local economy as well as our own development within the radio design business, the session with Angus Thirlwell (CEO of Hotel Chocolat), who shared some of his business philosophy, was of particular interest and relevance." Lord Alan Sugar held a typically candid debate with business leaders, Michelle Mone added some spice with a captivating keynote speech on developing the world-renowned Ultimo lingerie brand, and 30 other high-profile business experts contributed to a lively day at Duxford, EEDA said afterwards. With a focus on helping businesses to survive and thrive during the recession, delegates chose from a wide range of seminars, workshops, networking opportunities and the unique experiencing of meeting the likes of Greg Dyke under Concorde. EEDA chairman Richard Ellis said: "Destination Growth has once again proved to be an outstanding success. It was fantastic to see so many of this region's business leaders, each with such gritty ambition to survive and thrive during the recession, come together - especially as time has never been such a precious commodity in business.