April 22, 2020 @ 5:00 by Alison Cowie
North East England Chamber of Commerce has launched a strategic plan with major employers in the region aimed at ensuring the economy can bounce back from COVID-19.
The Chamber’s Partner members are working closely together on a range of topics, which will be essential priorities for the region’s economic future. These include the state of the local business environment (such as town and city centres), infrastructure, education, employment and skills and business finance.
James Ramsbotham, Chamber chief executive, said: “We understand fully North East businesses are facing tremendous difficulties right now, but we all have also to keep our eyes looking forward. It is imperative if we are to get through this current challenge that we know, as far as possible, what we need to do to hit the ground running after this crisis has eased.”
Chamber Partner members supporting this initiative represent a range of North East business sectors including Northumbrian Water, Thirteen Group, Gateshead College Womble Bond Dickinson, Banks Group, Newcastle Building Society and Lichfields.
Louise Hunter, director of corporate affairs, Northumbrian Water and chair, Chamber Partner members (pictured) said: “At this critical time in our regional economy it has never been more important that we stay connected as a business community. This work will help us all to understand the wider regional and UK context and will enable us to gain insights from, and ask questions of, key decision-makers.”
Many businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in the region were already facing challenges before the COVID-19 crisis so as part of this work the Chamber will be looking particularly at ways to support them. It is anticipated that changes in commuting patterns and demand for commercial space could cause problems that will need to be addressed to ensure town centres return to being vibrant and competitive.
COVID-19 has increased unemployment, created a drop in recruitment and affected education and vocational training. The Chamber Partners will look at the need for flexibility of funding and what mechanisms need to be put in place to prevent these problems from becoming endemic barriers to the region’s long-term economic recovery.
Much-needed finance injections to support cash flow have been highlighted as a substantial problem for many North East businesses so the Chamber’s work will look at how to help businesses raise funding after the current crisis.
James Ramsbotham added: “It is extremely important that as a region we all work together closely. Now more than ever we need our local authorities, businesses, public sector stakeholders and MPs to join forces to create the very best conditions for every company to not just survive but thrive post Covid19.
The project will shape the Chamber’s future campaigning work and provide ideas on how the business community can help itself.
To support businesses during these current challenging times the Chamber has arranged a series of virtual networking, webinars and key information updates and is acting as a PPE hub for NHS trusts to access essential materials from businesses.