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Thursday, 11 December 2014

President's Blog - Neil Smith

Newly-elected Chamber President, Neil Smith, gives his views on what’s been happening in the
Greater Manchester business community. 

In my first month as President, we have seen some considerable activity from Whitehall. ‘Devo Manc’ seems to be on every business page at the moment as the Government announces more powers to Greater Manchester with a caveat that there will be a requirement for an elected mayor to oversee key areas, including infrastructure and employment and skills.

According to a recent Commission for the New Economy report, over £1billion of government money will pass to Greater Manchester to fund post-16 skills and employment. The recent success of the Chamber’s skills team in piloting an employer-led programme has huge potential. Whether the methods of funding will be changed as part of the devolution process will be an important one to understand. The goal is to develop a model that engages small business with the mainstream skills system.

The fine detail is still to be understood as regards funding, but it has certainly got the Chamber policy team into high action. Watch this space and the social media outlets at the Chamber for more information.

The Autumn Statement was presented at the start of December. Highlights included a commitment to a wholesale review of the business rates system by government, which is something we’ve been heavily campaigning for. The Chancellor also made mention of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and highlighted his commitment to strengthening our regions, which we’re all in favour of. Greater Manchester also directly benefits from the  announcement of a £235m investment into the Sir Henry Royce Institute of Advanced Materials, which will be headquartered here, as well as £78m of funding for a new theatre and performance space at the old Granada Studios space, building on the region’s status as a creative and cultural hub. Take a look at the Chamber’s reaction to the Autumn Statement here for more about the impact on our region.

This month, I’ve been fortunate to attend a lecture by Professor Konstya Novoselvo, the recipient of the Nobel Prize for graphene. The recently opened £61million Graphene Institute in Manchester paves the way for the city to be at the forefront of commercialisation of this revolutionary material. In June 2015 the city opens its doors to worldwide companies to engage with the institute, so I hope Chamber members will be able to play a key part in building its success.

One of my other roles is as a member of the Trafford Economic Growth Board, and at our last meeting we were pleased to receive a presentation from the Local Enterprise Partnership outlining some of the current work being undertaken. All the activities are in the public domain including reference to the Greater Manchester manufacturing strategy which has just finished consultation.  I hope to give an update on this core part of economic growth for the region soon.

That’s it for now! Until next time, have a great break over the festive period and I wish everyone a very prosperous New Year.


Neil Smith, President of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
Managing Director, Kinetic PLC

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