There can be no doubt that 2011 has been another challenging year for business and one in which the pace of local economic growth has slowed down since the start of the year in the face of Government austerity measures, turbulence in the global markets and an ongoing crisis in the Eurozone.
Given that around 80 per cent of Chamber members say their confidence is affected to some degree by the situation in Europe, this does remain a major concern.
It means businesses need to be pragmatic in everything that they do and seek out fresh opportunities wherever possible.
However, I don’t want to dwell on the negatives because we have had a number of success stories here throughout the year and I think these are the things that we need to be celebrating as we head into 2012, as they will give us a strong platform on which to build throughout the year.
In Derby, we’ve recently had major announcements from firms like Toyota, Rolls Royce and JCB about huge investments in their plants in the city and its surrounds, which will create hundreds of jobs and send waves of opportunity throughout their supply chains to keep local manufacturing in good shape.
It is also extremely pleasing to hear that HEROtsc, part of media giant Sky, is creating 700 new jobs at the former Egg call centre on Pride Park.
These developments show that the city is beginning to get back on its feet and pick up the pieces following the hammer blow earlier this year when the Government decided to award the £1.4bn Thameslink contract to a German firm rather than the UK’s last remaining train-maker, Bombardier.
Since then, the Government has made some important concessions on its procurement procedures and with a bit more urgency from both Westminster and Whitehall, we should hopefully ensure that a situation like this – which puts British business at a clear disadvantage when bidding for contracts from its own Government – never happens again.
It is the private sector that will drive the UK’s economic recovery and businesses of all sizes have a huge part to play in making that happen, by creating jobs, continuing to innovate and investing in growth and expansion.
Yes, there are challenges ahead, which all businesses need to be mindful of.
But there are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic and with that in mind, I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2012.
President of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce