Business News President’s Focus

Steve Allen, president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and head of office at leading UK law firm Mills & Reeve LLP in Birmingham, looks at what has been a tumultuous 2020 so far. A year in which the Chamber has maintained a steady ship in the face of global uncertainty…

sweep into our country and impact every aspect of our daily lives. Over 57,000 people have tragically died in the UK from Covid-19 or related symptoms. We’ve seen our national obsession Brexit


wiped off the front pages and our economy nosedive into intensive care. We’ve also seen a government elected on a strong mandate to ‘get Brexit done’ struggle to cope with the impact of the pandemic. U-turn turn after u-turn and clumsily-handled

press conferences have done little to inspire the country in our national political leadership. At times like these when we are all caught in a

storm we look for an anchor, something to hang onto, a team, a support, a network that we feel we belong to that can help stabilise our worries and concerns and find a pathway that we can walk down together.

‘There have been few times in our 200-year history when the role of the Chamber has been so important’

This is why I am so proud of the work of the Chamber. Throughout this crisis our mantra of ‘keep business moving’ might have seemed aspirational but whilst our politicians in Westminster have lurched from one crisis to the next, we have been there for our members with daily updates, networking via social media, gathering intelligence from our members, helping our members take advantage of all the support available to them, identifying gaps in that support and lobbying local and central government on their behalf. The Chamber team have worked day and

night to be there for our members and there have been few times in our 200-year history when the role of the Chamber has been so important. But in all of this despair there have been

moments of joy and inspiration. We have all been proud of the doctors, nurses and NHS staff who have worked round the clock to care for us, which we celebrated by weekly applause and colourful rainbow pictures in the windows of our houses. We have also seen our young people

volunteering to help neighbours and local charities cope with the impact of the virus. It is this generation that gives me so much hope for the future. There have never been better examples of

what young people can achieve than all those nominated for and the winners of this year’s

12 CHAMBERLINK October 2020

e live in extraordinary times. It would have seemed unimaginable at the start of the year for a pandemic to

Role of Chamber so important – Steve Allen

Future Faces Awards. This year the awards were held online, they are still available to watch on the Chamber’s YouTube channel and I would urge you to take a look. From the Future Face of Entrepreneurship to

the Future Face of Industry, these nine sector award nominees and winners show why as a city region we must have the courage to face the future with optimism. These young people and many others like them demonstrate that hard work and talent are imbedded in our region and are there to help us build a strong and prosperous future for our region. Another cause for optimism is the formal start

of the construction work on HS2. The Chamber has been a supporter of this project since its inception and lobbied hard for its survival when there was a risk that it may be in danger. The government deserves credit for having the courage to proceed with this ambitious project creating 22,000 new jobs and set to play a major part in our local and national economic recovery. Some people have questioned why this

project is needed at all given the ‘new norm’ when so many of us have been working from home. However, there is no doubt that in order to compete with other European and emerging economies we have to modernise our transport infrastructure and in addition its construction is both a concrete and symbolic testament to the need to level up our national economy.

‘Our offices are here to stay and we can expect to see further real estate investment in Birmingham’

Whilst I understand that ‘the new norm’ means

that remote working is here to stay I don’t subscribe to the view that the office is redundant. Like many people I’ve missed the team interaction and support whilst not being in the office. The future is going to be a more flexible

approach to working yes, but will it mean the death of the city centre office?

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