THE "credit crunch" and fall in the foreign exchange value of Sterling could lead to a major expansion of manufacturing in Huntingdonshire, the district council believes. And what for some are economic difficulties could stimulate significant expansion in the district, with companies looking to relocate to an economically attractive area. HDC, which has supported The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards throughout their 11 years' celebration of what is best in local business, is also sponsoring the Internet category this year. And, although the council acknowledges that some businesses are suffering in the current economic climate, it is seriously optimistic about prospects for the future. Corrine Garbett, sustainable economic development manager, said: "Both micro and macro economic factors lead us to believe that Huntingdonshire is poised to fare well during the current economic difficulties. "Our manufacturers will benefit from the recent weakening of Sterling, a long-awaited correction bringing the value of the pound back to an historic average. Further weakening of Sterling is likely as fuel imports increase, which will continue to assist our manufactures to grow both international market share and domestic markets too, as imports from the emerging economies become more expensive." Firms looking to cut costs by relocation to Huntingdonshire and buoyant retail activity are further causes for optimism, Mrs Garbett added. "As the credit crunch bites, we are experiencing a significant increase in inward investment enquiries - companies looking to relocate to the district as a means of reducing property overheads while maintaining access to a multi-skilled workforce, proximity to Cambridge and excellent transport links. "Footfall statistics in all four of Huntingdonshire's market towns are significantly better than the national average, three of the four showing an increase on the previous year. Across the four towns, footfall increased by 3.4 per cent, compared with a decline nationally of almost 10 per cent over the same period." Business support is central to the HDC economic development team's effort to nurture a healthy, diverse and sustainable local economy for Huntingdonshire. "So it's only natural that we have been keen sponsors of the whole Business Awards since their inception some 11 years ago. Additional sponsorship this year of the Internet Award is a reflection of priorities established by our new economic strategy for 2008-2015. "Our strategy includes a focus on the development of specific industries that the district is well placed to support and attract, and the growth of which we believe would enhance the local economy - creative industries, high-value manufacturing, environmental science and technologies, high-tech and knowledge-based enterprises. "At HDC we are convinced that the diversity of our local economy also contributes to economic stability at a time of national and international uncertainty. But for all our businesses, capacity to grow inevitably depends on an ability to embrace e-commerce and hence our sponsorship of the Internet Award." The council has already embarked upon a number of projects to deliver these objectives: the \u00A32million Creative Exchange enterprise centre in St Neots, due to open in November, aims to attract and retain creative talent and nurture its development into successful and growing enterprise. "We are working with sub-regional partners to promote the district as a centre of excellence for high-value manufacturing; we are working with Ofcom to raise awareness of digital infrastructure requirements in the district to ensure that all our businesses have the capacity they need for growth in an increasingly e-based international economy," Mrs Garbett added.