KEVIN HARRIS, Chamber President, on the issues that are worth talking about

I can’t quite believe I am writing my last The Last Word – as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like only five minutes ago that I stood

before members at the Chamber’s 2018 Annual General Meeting to accept the chains of office and with it the honour of becoming your President – a position I have been proud to hold. It feels like the past 12 months have been

something of a paradox – on one hand the business climate feels similar to last year, one of uncertainty and of businesses being hamstrung in their ability to plan. Yet on the other – certainly from a Chamber perspective – it’s been a year of positivity and dynamism, a tone which has certainly been set by you, our members. Even the latest Quarterly Economic Survey

results demonstrate the resilience and ambition of businesses across our patch. While the findings showed a general downturn in activity due to multiple factors – many outside of businesses control – the data suggests that businesses remain positive in their outlook and it’s that mind-set and tenacity that will undoubtedly serve this great region well in the months and years to come. In my first speech as President last November

I mentioned that I was a strong advocate of the power of three and, as such, outlined three goals for my Presidential year. The first was to ensure the Chamber continues

to offer the help, guidance and support our members need to steer them through the changes that lie ahead. Secondly, I wanted to focus on the opportunities presenting themselves to businesses in the UK, from Brexit, from the Government’s Industrial Strategy and from the Local Industrial Strategies that are being developed by Local Enterprise Partnerships. Thirdly, I wanted to develop improved links

between business and education and focus attention on the skills agenda as a whole – ensuring those leaving academia have the skills employers need, those working in academia have a better understanding of business and that business is more involved in delivering a fuller education that is not narrowly focused on curriculum goals.

90 business network November 2019

L-R: Ian Morgan, Kevin Harris and Scott Knowles I feel these targets have been met and then

some and I am delighted with the progress that has been made on all three fronts by the Chamber, our partners and our members, who have embraced this crucial area of activity. However I offer a caveat and it is this. In no way

can we – as a Chamber and a wider business community – rest on our laurels. Make no mistake, the hard work starts now and there is much to be done; but we have made a great start. Shortly after receiving the chains of office it was

announced that the Chamber had been crowned the British Chambers of Commerce’s Chamber of the Year and it’s an accolade the Chamber has lived up to in the year that has followed. It is a Chamber befitting of the region – a

region with so much to offer and with so much potential. I am truly excited by what the future holds for the East Midlands and the fantastic array of businesses we have on our patch will be instrumental in our future prosperity. And rest assured, prosperity for you, our members, and the communities we all serve, will

underpin everything the Chamber does over the next 12 months and beyond. I would like to thank my fellow board members, Scott and the leadership team at the Chamber as well as the Chamber’s dedicated staff who continue to work passionately on your behalf. And of course I would like to thank you for

your support, engagement and enthusiasm over the past year – it has been a pleasure speaking with so many members over the past 12 months and these conversations have further reinforced my belief that our region is the beating heart of the UK economy. I leave you now in the safe hands of my

successor Dawn Edwards, who I know will take on this mantle with skill, enthusiasm and more than a sprinkling of drive and determination. If she enjoys the role half as much as I have, she is in for a great year.

All the best, Kevin

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