Presidents Blog - February 2014

18th February, 2014

Following the Chambers AGM on Tuesday 4th February, what follows is Richard Uttings report as President looking back over 2013 and looking forward to what the Chamber would like to achieve in 2014.

Over 2013 I would like to think that the Chamber has become stronger in its efforts to be the voice of the business community.  It doesn’t seem like 12 months ago since I received this chain of office; in actual fact it seems a hell of lot longer.  But the last year has seen the Chamber continuing to achieve some notable successes in promoting our town and supporting local business.

  •  Our membership has grown
  • There is even more interest in Chamber affairs
  • We have had some great B2B events and general meetings which have attracted a lot of interest and met by many as surprisingly good and informative.
  • A very successful Annual Dinner and Business Awards evening
  • We have continued to have an open and sometimes frank discussion with our district council
  • We have continued to support the Business Improvement District for Penrith which I believe will make such a difference to the town over the remaining 4 years of its current tenure.
  • The Pride in Penrith lottery, which was originally the brainchild of the Chamber, goes from strength to strength. It has given out grants worth more than £35,000 over the last 3 years which has not only supported local events but many local not for profit organisations. We also now have a corporate lottery membership, so, for those of you who are not currently members this is now your opportunity for your business to become a member  and not only help local organisations but also to share with your staff the possibility of winning up to £5,000.
  • The Winter Festival and Winter Droving and the Eden Food and Farming Festival – what a brilliant success these have been and what a difference these have made to the outward perception of Penrith as a business and shopping destination of choice.
  • Of course we have our town ambassadors and my thanks go out to each and every one of them for their help and assistance in spreading the Chamber word and attending our monthly meetings to discuss town issues.
  • The Ask Me Points have also proved to be a great success with a number of businesses prepared to help visitors who are new to the town.
  • Finally we have our newly formed ‘Professional Group’ now headed up by Heidi Marshall. This group was not only formed to get all the professional firms together as a self help group but members of this group will also be able to give help and assistance to Chamber members as well as be available to give presentations and training at Chamber events regarding various topics.
  • We are also involved in the introduction of Totally Locally to the town, a marketing campaign promoting the rich and varied independent shop we have in the town, and also The Digital High Street which is another way of addressing the challenges facing the high street by exploring innovative approaches to retailing by way of apps.

All this above said the Chamber has much more it can do to support the business community.  For it to be truly supportive and fully representative of all the business community it must now concentrate its efforts in attracting new interest and thus new members from the many businesses situated on the many industrial estates around the town. That is why over the next few months we will be holding a number of open meetings on these industrial estates to promote the Chamber and the many business opportunities it provides. Penrith has many great businesses and we need to engage with them so we can enlist their help in making Penrith a great place to do business.

We also need to make the Chamber more fit for purpose. Even though there are so many positive things going on and we still have many more opportunities, the Chamber still has a number of weaknesses which need to be addressed. Following a brainstorming session we had some weeks ago it was identified that the Chamber still has some major weaknesses which need attention.

These primarily are

a: Lack of both financial and ‘people’ resource.

These can easily be solved by greater engagement, more membership (and thus more membership fees) and more people prepared to get involved.  So, as part of this, I would like to call upon you all tonight to consider how you can help in one small way.  It doesn’t have to be mammoth; it doesn’t have to be all time consuming. It may be just bringing along another business to one of our business or networking event; it may be just helping out with an event or an activity; it may be sitting on the Executive.  But the more of us who are prepared to do their bit the easier it is for everyone and it will help the Chamber to grow into a truly representative body.

Finally may I thank you for your attention. May I thank you for your support and thank the Executive team for the time they have given up in pursuance of improving the Chamber for the benefit of our great town.

Thank you also to all our membership for their continued support.

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