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Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday Guest Blog

By Phil Cusack, newly-elected President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

This position – President of the largest Chamber of Commerce in the country and in my city region as well - could be nothing other than a great honour. I am surprised and hugely flattered that you have asked me to do it. Particularly so since we have just had such a capable, articulate and intelligent thinker as Martin Douglas as President. I believe that he has helped to move us forward as an organisation and I would like to offer my personal thanks for his two-year term of office.

I’m sure I’m going to need support from Neil Smith as Vice-President and I know that he’ll continue to do whatever he can to ensure that this Chamber of Commerce is pointing in the right direction to help its members.

Not that there is really a question about this with David McKeith as one of the most competent Chairmen I have ever worked with as well as a tirelessly effective Chief Executive in Clive Memmott.

What I’m really saying is that I believe that there is an outstanding team here. This Chamber of Commerce is going through huge organisational and structural change at the moment and all the signs are that the changes are being handled sensitively, efficiently and in a way which I believe will result in a stronger and sustainable Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Martin has taken corporate social responsibility forward as one of his key themes – we need to continue this with just as much enthusiasm. We need to help Chamber businesses to work in the community but we also need to clearly communicate the practical and lasting business benefits to them of doing that.

As I know Martin does, I also believe that our affiliation with the British Chambers of Commerce is critically important in taking us forward in areas such as further developing our already successful international trade service and lobbying Government at the highest levels on issues that are of critical importance to businesses in this region such as investment in hugely needed infrastructure. The BCC’s objective of encouraging Government investment in roads, rail, aviation, ports, digital infrastructure and skills development must resonate strongly in a region such as ours and must be wholeheartedly supported by this Chamber working closely in tandem with them.

I will not for a moment though pretend that things are going to be easy.

I cannot see our economy returning to pre-2007 levels of economic activity and growth for many years. Past global banking difficulties are now manifesting themselves in the crisis we are now seeing in the Euro-market and there is a slow-down in the Asia Pacific economy. Both of these will improve over time and we can expect to see some gradual growth – indeed, we know that non-oil GDP is now growing again, albeit slowly and there are still signs of cautious and guarded confidence in and around this City.

But in this part of the world, the engine for growth is going to be the non-financial business sector. Our job is to make sure that economic growth happens and that the business sector in our city-region is in the best possible condition to make it do just that.

So it is a key ambition of mine to help to ensure that we do two very simple sounding things – support the small and attract the large.

Small and medium sized businesses need to know that we are here to help them grow, develop and remain healthy. We need to carry on the immensely successful work we have already been doing in this area across Greater Manchester. In addition though, we need to get across the message that we can work with large businesses to allow them to be heard loudly and clearly at the highest levels of Government and to develop mechanisms to allow them to work best here, to make the best business contacts here and to collaborate to build business models which match some of those seen in the leading second cities in Europe and the rest of the world.

This is going to be my leading theme – to help this Chamber to be fully recognised as the foremost private sector organisation in Greater Manchester for large national and global businesses to work together , to share ‘best practice,’ to celebrate successes and to gain direct access to Government to press those issues which affect them most and to encourage those changes which will help them as businesses most. I would like us to create a ‘top table’ that they cannot afford not to be at.

I can’t make any great promises at this stage but one I will make is that I will do my absolute best for this Chamber and for its members during my term of office.

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