Bradford Chamber has completed its merger with Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber to form West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. A big decision for Bradford Chamber.
What does it mean for business and Bradford? A similar set-up lasted for eight years back in the 1990s when a joint services company provided cross-area support, only ending when it was realised a single-site office in Thornbury didn’t allow for adequate self-identity for Leeds and York.
No loss of identity
The new set-up is different: sites in Leeds, York and Bradford – two in Little Germany, and two in BD4 – will remain. The vote to forge ahead together with what has historically but not always accurately been portrayed locally as a rival to Bradford’s fortunes is one that did, initially, receive some scepticism. Fears that Bradford’s independence, neutrality and identity would be undermined and overshadowed have, largely, been assuaged. This is a partnership of equals.
The merger received overwhelming support at a special meeting for members. The opportunity for all businesses in these great cities is enormous and working together is key if we are to become stronger. In some ways, we can call it the dawning of a new era and, yet, in others, it is still ‘business as usual’ – something that I know members want to see. You want to have the assurance that business support services that you rely on and can easily tap into will still be there at the touch of a button; and so I would expect to see little or no disruption or change to the services you now use.
So, why bother, you may ask. Well, while there is no diminution of local service or identity to Bradford, there is a greater strength to be gained from working with others. I actually hope to see an improvement in performance as local intelligence and better connected businesses work closer together.
The new arrangement allows more businesses to network outside their own geographical areas but it’s also in representing members that the changes will lead to more clout. The funding landscape has changed, business needs have changed, being at the top table in all conversations is critical for this region.
The new chamber will be the fifth largest in the country, a diverse and forward looking organisation with a strong board of directors and highly respected chief executive. The message now is to build on existing strengths, expand connections and experience, command greater attention from politicians and civil servants, and be the leading voice of business in the region with 2500 members.
Influence and success
The increasing emphasis on ‘city region’ economies, as opposed to local council areas or even counties, means the new set-up has a better chance of securing more government and European funding for projects that make our economy more dynamic, resilient and successful. Bradford will be at the top table and leading the conversation about skills, growth, exports and enterprise.
I remain as strongly-committed as ever to helping build a better Bradford. West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce leaves us better-placed to do that. Chambers and their members share more in common than the things that divide them and we haven’t exploited that since the demise of regional development agencies, which curtailed the activities of Yorkshire & Humber Chambers of Commerce.
We now have the opportunity to influence key decision-makers in the corridors of power, to deliver more services across a greater area, and to enhance the prospects and performance of more of our businesses; I’m looking forward to it….are you?