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A bleak January – but with hope for the future

Goodbye to January 2016. A Chamber CEO ought to work hard at positivity and cheerful optimism but I will be honest and admit that I am not sorry to wave farewell to the first month of the year.

It may simply be that we lost far too many familiar faces from our cultural life. I was especially thumped by David Bowie’s death.  Some people are almost subconscious reference points in our lives I guess and I now realise he was for me. 

Or it may be that we have now named our storms and made them somehow more notably grim. Frankly, I think I’d prefer to let wind and rain remain anonymous.   Or it may be that we’ve had a good go at scaring ourselves with fluctuating stock markets, Chinese economic adjustment and dramatically lower oil prices.  Some Chamber members are directly affected by these issues and I’m sure are earnestly wishing for improvement.

So I’m deliberately going to have a look back at January and find the positives.

Glasgow made the shortlist for the European Capital of Innovation 2016 and a team from Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City of Science presented our case in Brussels.  We are up against a formidable list of competitor cities including Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Milan but we have a really excellent story to tell of innovative partnerships that bring business, government and academia together behind our research strengths. 

Those strengths in precision medicine, energy, advanced manufacturing and some enabling technologies like sensing, photonics and quantum technologies are all foundation stones for the next wave of Glasgow’s economic story. At the Chamber we think it’s essential that we understand as much as we can about the research work going on in our city today – indeed later in the month I am taking a small team across to Glasgow University to see if we can begin to grasp the implications of their work on quantum technologies.

Another highlight of the month was the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting.  Neil Amner has taken on the Presidency and Vic Emery becomes Past President.  Jim McHarg from the Weir Group takes on the role of Deputy President.  Vic led us through a tumultuous two years in Glasgow not least with the Commonwealth Games. So it was deeply cheering to hear more at the President’s dinner about the European Sports Championships (ESC) which Glasgow will be jointly hosting with Berlin in 2018. Jon Ridgeon – a silver medallist at 1987 World Athletics Championships in the 110 metres hurdles – is leading the interaction with Glasgow from the ESC management team and he explained exactly how this is going to work.  It’s a brand new concept and it will be not far short of the Commonwealth Games in scale.  

And finally we have held a session with colleagues at Ryden to take a close look at the opportunities for a next wave of investment in commercial property in the City Centre. We commissioned the work on behalf of the City Centre Strategy Board which Councillor McAveety chairs.  There are some very positive messages about the scale of the opportunity given where Glasgow sits in the investment cycle and we hope to bring options to the Strategy Board in the late spring.  We want to help the City Council to shape some ambitious investment proposals to include in the city’s pitch book.

So the antidote to a choppy January is simple. Keep looking forward. 

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