As we come to the end of 2014, we end the year on a high note.
Last week we were overjoyed to be awarded a national Chamber Award from The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) for Excellence in Membership Services – which officially makes us the best Chamber in the UK for the services we deliver to our members.
Not only did we win this award, but we were finalists in two other categories too -Excellence in International Trade Services and Chamber of the Year. To get recognition at a national level makes all the hard work we have put in during 2014 – and prior to that – seem so worthwhile. Myself and the team strive to be a Chamber which truly supports its members and I would personally like to thank all of our members for believing in our offer and working with us to ensure that we are providing the support they need and for proactively working with each other and really making the most out of their membership. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff for their hard work, dedication, and professionalism; the Board for their guidance and support; and local partners and stakeholders for working with and supporting us.
Aside from our own award win, there has been a flurry of local news stories in recent weeks promising job creation and announcing regeneration and road improvement plans scheduled for 2015.
Both Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP) and South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) have been awarded tens of millions of pounds for improvements to road networks and to help colleges in the county to expand and offer better facilities. Dalepak has also announced that it has been awarded £1.3 million worth of funding to bring 150 new jobs to Northampton. This is in addition to a new hotel being built in Northampton – which has promised to create a further 50 jobs – and the creation of a new cinema in Corby.
In our most recent Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), which covered Quarter 3 of 2014, a high number of our members reported that they had recruited or attempted to recruit new staff in July, August and September. A total of 45% of manufacturers and 36% of services companies said their workforce had increased during this quarter and 99% of services firms and 100% of manufacturers expected their workforce to increase or remain the same during Quarter 4. However, large numbers from both sectors said they had experienced difficulties in finding staff with the right skills – a nationwide issue that needs addressing by the Government in the coming months and years.
And, just this week, the Chancellor offered some help for small businesses in his Autumn Statement by doubling business rates relief for a further year and imposing an inflation-linked increase in business rates capped at 2%, a cut in fuel duty and a £45 million package for exporters. The Government also extended its Funding for Lending Scheme to increase bank lending to firms for another year.
Looking back, 2014 was a year of rising confidence in the Northamptonshire economy and we are seeing positive signs of growth and redevelopment all around us. I am sure that 2015 will be another year of growth and our local businesses, of which we should all be immensely proud of, will continue to thrive.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.