It’s hard to believe that 12 months have passed since Staffordshire Chambers was named Chamber of the Year by the British Chambers of Commerce – an accolade that recognised our relationship with the business community and acted as a catalyst for the year that followed.
In a year marred by international conflict and unprecedented rises in inflation, it fills me with great pride to know that the Chamber and our partners have supported the local business community with a comprehensive range of programmes and services.
During the last financial year, through our Positive Pathways programme, we have supported almost 100 refugees who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution with employability skills and business start-up advice. Our Positive Pathways team have worked tirelessly to help refugees find employment in the local area, and it is tremendous news that this programme has been extended by a further 12 months. We have welcomed a number of refugees from Ukraine and the thoughts of everyone at the Chamber remain with the country at this difficult time.
Over 200 businesses have been launched with the support of our Start-up programme. The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and well in Staffordshire, and I would urge anyone who’s interested in stepping into the world of self-employment to get in touch, here.
Our newly-formed International Trade Centre processed export documentation worth almost £300 million throughout the last financial year – an impressive figure in its own right but something that we’re particularly proud of given the current climate that businesses are operating in. Breaking into new markets can really help evolve your business, and I would urge anyone considering oversees expansions in the new year to get in touch with our International Trade Centre manager, Allison Tomlinson.
Our Kickstart programme, overseen by our Head of Projects and Business Services, Tom Nadin, supported an incredible 912 young people into work across Staffordshire, and we were also proud to support over 2,500 business crime victims through our business crime advisor.
Shire Hall, a jewel in the heart of Stafford, was renovated during the summer and is the new home of Stafford Chamber, opening to the public this autumn. Our members are welcome to use the facilities at Shire Hall for free – an extension of the Members’ Lounge at Commerce House that has been hugely popular throughout the year as hybrid and remote working opportunities grow increasingly popular.
We were also selected by the Secretary of State for Education to lead the development and delivery of the Local Skills Improvement Plan for Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire. In November, we invited 70 business owners and leaders to our Skills Summit at the Catalyst Building, Staffordshire University, to discuss issues around recruiting and retaining staff. I look forward to continuing this work in the new year.
Most recently, we were proud to announce that a new daily news service would be making its way to inboxes across the county.
Daily Focus will be a source of the most up-to-date business news and comment from across Staffordshire – transforming the ways that local businesses receive and share information.
There is a real feeling of demand for a regular, focused and authoritative business news service to represent the businesses in our county. We want to shout about the brilliant things that Staffordshire businesses are getting up to – and encourage you to send your stories to the Daily Focus team on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up to the news service, here.
I am extremely excited about this project and look forward to welcoming your input!
We’re now seeing our events calendar for 2023 taking shape, with some very exciting events in the pipeline, including the return of our Chamber Awards and Let’s Do Business. We’ll be looking to continue the momentum from a record-breaking year, which included the most amount of entries for our Chamber awards and our best footfall on record for Let’s Do Business. There’s also an extremely exciting keynote speaker event planned for March – keep your eyes peeled on the Chambers’ events page for more details!
We of course couldn’t do it without the support of our membership. Thank you for being part of this journey with us.