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The Chamber year ramps up

There are moments in the Chamber year when it seems as if everything is happening at the same time, and this last fortnight has been one of those.  Here’s some of what we have been tackling so you can get a fuller flavour of what your Chamber gets up to.

On April 30, to celebrate 2015 as Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, we held a Glasgow Talks: Food and Drink event with James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, David Melvin, managing director of Cordia LLP and Petra Wetzel, founder of the city’s excellent West Brewery.

We sometimes overlook the importance of the food and drink sector in the Glasgow economy, which is surprising - not least since Glasgow is at the very heart of the bottling and distribution of whisky.

We got three very different outlooks, with James leading the charge to grow the Scottish industry to output of £16.5b by 2017 (up from £13b in 2013), David demonstrating the challenges involved in the local market from major event catering such as the Commonwealth Games through to supplying schools and care homes across the city, and Petra showing the buccaneering spirit involved in building her independent German-style beer brewery. 

Thanks go to both the Clydesdale Bank and the University of Glasgow for their sponsorship support of Glasgow Talks.

On the same day we held a Chamber President’s Club dinner with Lord Willie Haughey to explore the progress being made with the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal and how we at the Chamber can help.

Willie has been asked by the leaders of the region’s eight local authorities to chair the business board that will guide the delivery of the 20 economic development projects to be funded by £1.13b of City Deal funding. Watch out shortly for the advertising of contracts which you can bid for as the City Deal programme rolls out. 

This is a substantial investment in the economic infrastructure of our region, and the Chamber is actively supporting City Deal’s success.  We used the dinner to help raise awareness of the role the business community will play in the programme. We were delighted to welcome to the dinner one of the members of our President’s Club Away Team, Ken Donnelly, Director of Global Risk Analytics, Bank of America fulfilling the promise of Away Team members that they will visit with us if they are in town. Thanks go to MacRoberts for supporting the dinner.

A few days later we welcomed a delegation from the Chamber of Commerce of Beirut and Mount Lebanon for three days of knowledge exchange. 

Now it’s a very common thing for us to share experiences, contacts and trading opportunities with our colleagues in Chambers all around the world, but it was the first time that we had met with the Beirut Chamber.

Beirut is a fascinating place in a famously troubled region, but we can see that our friends in Beirut are demonstrating a familiar lesson. Free trade helps to bring countries and cultures together.  We are two Chambers tackling many of the same issues in support of commerce and economic growth.  Of course there are some often stark contrasts, but our trading philosophy is strongly shared. We wish Rabih Sabra, the Director General, and his team every success in the years ahead.

At the same time we have been proudly supporting Glasgow’s first year as the home of Reed Exhibition’s All-Energy Conference at the SECC.  This is a big deal with well over 7,000 delegates exploring business opportunities and engineering tasks in renewable energy. Glasgow has been growing its presence in renewables over recent years, according to Scottish Renewables, now has the highest concentration of employment in the Scottish industry.

With companies like Scottish Power, SSE, Weir Group, Aggreko, Gaia Wind alongside institutions like the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde all operating out of Glasgow, it is becoming much more obvious why that is the case.

Indeed on the April 29 I was very pleased to be asked to say a few words at the University of Strathclyde Annual Gala Dinner, and I took the chance to make the Chamber case that Glasgow is no longer a city in regeneration but an economic powerhouse - and to show how an institution like Strathclyde is helping to make that happen through innovation and an ambitious strategy for increasing its research impact.  Renewables is only one of the reasons for Glasgow’s current success, but it is one which we weren’t discussing only some ten years ago.

Oh yes and there was a General Election.

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