It is customary for the incoming President to say a few words after election to set out a bit of a stall.
First I’d like to tell you how delighted and honoured I am to have been elected as the representative voice of all Penrith’s businesses.
I do not approach this role without a certain degree of trepidation. It is a role with huge responsibility and I hope clout amongst the stakeholders that impact on our town from local and national politicians, public opinion, business owners and workers, and residents in general. I am the first to admit that the Chamber represents an important voice but at the end of the day it is only one of many community voices.
I am also feeling trepidation because of who I have followed in my immediate predecessors: Richard Utting and before him Philip Cranston and Kelvin Dixon. You all know how much the current success of the Chamber owes to Philip and Kelvin; under Richard for the last two years the Chamber has gone from strength to strength. Those are huge acts to follow but I intend to make the best contribution I can and I promise to do my very best with your help and that of my newly elected executive team.
And on that point, I would like to say thank you for electing a superb executive team: Heidi Marshall my Vice President who also heads up the professional group, Fiona Askins who runs the ambassadors, Helen Little our financial guru, Elizabeth Allinson, Alan Reading, and Nick and Karen Harvey. I intend to lead this team to help the chamber deliver the best possible support for the business community.
So remember, the chamber exists to provide local businesses with practical and relevant support; it's
a platform for businesses to engage with each other, providing them with an opportunity to network as well as giving them a strong voice in our community.
Being part of the Chamber gives businesses a voice that is heard and respected – help us to shape your future.
You will be pleased to hear that Richard Utting’s contribution will not be lost and we look forward to using him as a consultant. He has agreed to help us to increase membership of the Chamber as well as working on longer-term strategic projects such as looking at the prospects for pedestrianisation as part of the option for a better shopping and business experience in Penrith; reopening the Keswick to Penrith railway, and developing some of our showpiece attractions like the castle and the beacon.
We will also continue with a programme of guest speakers – Rory Stewart is already lined up for the middle of the year.
We will once again be having the Stars of Business Awards at North Lakes Hotel and would like to thank Anthony Penny for his support for the Chamber. There will be an after-dinner speaker and, of course, the usual business awards – a really great annual event. We will also have our usual crop of social gatherings such as the summer social and business to business (B2B) events and of course the general business meetings and forums to discuss issues of importance to the members.
In a minute you will hear from Kelvin and Justin from the Penrith BID (Business Improvement District). I have served on the BID board for the past year and have now made way for Heidi Marshall who will, I know, make a very valuable contribution. In my role as President I am most passionate about the great opportunity offered by the existence of the BID. It really will enable Penrith to make an enormous leap forward. Working together with 'joined up thinking' will ensure we can achieve some really big things for the town and to really make it an even better place to live, work and play.
So my message is: let's work together with the BID to make a sound investment in our future. Get together and be prepared to take responsibility.