During the meeting held on 25 June, participants were given updates as to the not-for-profit organisation’s own experiences during the last year and those of its members.
In spite of the very challenging economic conditions facing businesses due to both the COVID19 pandemic and the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union, Suffolk Chamber’s key indicators exceeded expectations with membership levels slightly higher than for the previous 12-month period and a huge rise in the number of businesses benefiting from its business support and advice delivered.
Suffolk Chamber’s chief executive, john Dugmore, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved – staff, the board, our members and the wider business community – for working together so well over the last year in the most trying circumstances imaginable. Team Suffolk can hold its head high as to how it has responded to these challenges.”
The AGM heard that the Chamber’s retention rates were very high and as a thank you to existing members it was agreed that there would be no increase in membership fees – for the third year in a row.
The event’s keynote speaker was Paul Briddon, president of Suffolk Chamber. He reflected that: “this last year has been truly seismic in its disruption for many, but I am optimistic about the Suffolk business community’s resilience over the longer-term.”
Paul outlined how the Chamber itself has adapted to the business consequences of the pandemic.
“We dealt with thousands of enquiries from businesses to assist, reassure and support them during the most challenging parts of the lockdown and beyond, as well as distributing regular email briefings with accurate and impartial advice and guidance.
“Our regular email surveys of members provided value intelligence allowing us to deliver, sometimes on our own, but also via our national body, the British Chambers of Commerce, dozens of lobbying wins that have widened and sharpened the support from Government.
“Our events team very quickly developed a market-leading expertise in running online events and webinars, on subjects of specific relevance to the lockdown and recovery and on other issues.
Through the Growth Hub, which is managed by Suffolk Chamber on behalf of New Anglia LEP, we’ve ensured that £7.5m of grants have been defrayed, committed and in the pipeline to qualifying businesses.”
In terms of the future, Paul outlined why Suffolk had what it took to recover and renew more fully than other parts of the country.
“It’s down to the sheer diversity of our business base. Suffolk is home to a dazzling range of sectors and so we are not beholden to any one sector’s fortune alone. Our risk is spread evenly.
“Indeed, Suffolk is well represented in many of the growth sectors that will drive the UK economy forward in to a new normal, including renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, ecommerce fulfilment and tourism, the last likely to be boosted by the growing popularity of staycations.
We are also well-placed, literally, because of our geography. The fact that we are a pivotal point between London, the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other through the ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Lowestoft will grow in importance in the coming years.”
Image: L2R John Dugmore, Paul Briddon and Matt Moss, Treasurer of Suffolk Chamber. CREDIT: Suffolk Chamber of Commerce