With only a few months left of his term, Black Country Chamber of Commerce President, Ninder Johal, reflecting on 2015 and looking at the year ahead said: “2015 was a year of change for the Chamber. We are expecting great things to continue into 2016: the Chamber will be more outward looking, developing stronger relationships with the LEP and West Midlands Combined Authority to ensure that business needs are driving the growth of the region.
“The launch of the Midlands Engine at the end of 2015 is a reminder of our role across the wider geography. We have been involved, along with partners including other Chambers, the FSB, CBI and IoD from across the Midlands to ensure that the devolution of power localities promotes business growth and wealth creation.
“I am very proud of the role I have played in developing the Black Country Chamber of Commerce. Coming runner-up in the British Chambers of Commerce 2015 Award for Chamber of the Year shows that improvements are recognised nationwide.”
Looking ahead to taking on the President’s role, Vice President Kevin Rogers said: “We have been working hard to understand more clearly what we need to do to deliver a GVA of £34 billion by the end of 2023. The Black Country must become the premier region in the world for mid-tier manufacturing, specialising in design and testing. We need to encourage manufacturing businesses to look at composites and remanufacturing. To support a £34 billion economy we need to ensure that the retail, cultural and housing offers are up to scratch and that the services sector not only supports our growth in manufacturing but is thriving in the areas the world most needs.
“Productivity is going to become a big issue for the region as we compete with the rest of the world. We need to understand the wider drivers of productivity and the true economic value of highly productive talent.”
Paul Cadman, Group MD of the Futura Group, winner of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious Manufacturer of the Year Award 2015 said: “The EEF recently produced a report showing that there will be jobs shed from the manufacturing sector. The closure of Caparo and bad news from the steel manufacturing sector is tempering optimism. Volatility in export markets is making exporting more risky. The Budget and more recent announcements regarding business support means that businesses will no longer find it as easy to access grants. All of these variables add up and although I would urge our manufacturers to seek out professional business support wherever they can, to ensure that their processes are lean, to identify new market opportunities for their world class products and to help them introduce high performance work practices, we know it is going to cost small businesses more money.
“We must be careful not to talk down the most productive part of the UK: the Black Country is growing at 5.5% against the UK average of 2.4%. Nevertheless we do consider the ‘Midlands Engine’ a special case. The public sector no longer has the resources or expertise to lead growth. Businesses such as Futura Design need to step up to the plate and address all the shortcomings that might make us uncompetitive in a global market. This is the time for private sector leaders to step forward and create some renewed optimism in the Black Country.”
Johnathan Dudley, Managing Partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill, Chair of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce’s Competitiveness Group and Chair of the Alliance 4 the Black Country said: “We need to get the issues related to access to finance resolved. Smaller businesses or those without a track record are having to pay premium interest rates. Furthermore, government supported schemes are not resolving the issue. I have a chance, following a meeting with the Secretary of State, to put some proposals in place that will enable businesses in the Black Country to become more ‘investment ready’ in 2016. I will report progress through the usual channels.”