PROSPER MAGAZINE: AUTUMN 2019 | QUARTERLY REVIEW
WORKING HARD FOR THE BLACK COUNTRY'S BUSINESS COMMUNITY
CORIN CRANE | CEO - BLACK COUNTRY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The relaunch of Prosper and the introduction of Prosper Online have been central to our plans to make the Black Country Chamber of Commerce one of the most modern and dynamic in the country and I’m sure you’ll agree that the region’s longest established business title has never looked better. I am incredibly proud of all those who have put the hard work into making this magazine look so fantastic.
As a Chamber, we continue to work hard to ensure that our members have access to a range of services and opportunities to connect, raise their profile and make the process of doing business easier.
This year, we have introduced a number of new initiatives including Future Link for young professionals, the Start-Up Business Club, focused our export and import support under the Black Country International name and have teamed up with expert training providers to provide a range of new courses and programmes.
In addition to this, we created more ways for our members to meet and do business with each other through the launch of our fortnightly and regional business networking clubs and have also embarked on a rebrand and created more opportunities for our members to share their news and stories.
Through all of these developments, we remain the voice of the Black Country business community and a powerful platform whose opinions are valued and sought after by politicians and policymakers. If you’ve yet to take part in our Quarterly Economic Survey, I would absolutely encourage you to do so.
These regular snapshots form part of 53 surveys undertaken by other Chambers across the country and provide the British Chambers of Commerce with one of the most powerful and most up-to-date sentiment analysis of the business world in the UK. This data is reviewed and poured over by analysts, economists, the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, HM Treasury and the Independent Office for Budget Responsibility - often forming the backdrop for changing policy and improvements.
In the face of continued Brexit indecision and general political uncertainty in Westminster; Black Country businesses continue to demonstrate their resolve and the 2019 Black Country Business Festival in May being a particular highlight which demonstrated the confidence, resilience and innovation of our local firms.
Based on our daily conversations with members, we know that businesses want an end to ongoing Brexit uncertainty and a renewed focus on domestic policy. There is certainly a feeling that crucially important policy issues are being ignored with clarity urgently needed on the future of large infrastructure projects such as HS2. As a Chamber, we are supportive of the project, the investment in the West Midlands and the supply chain opportunities which follow.
Locally, the second quarter of 2019 pointed to an easing of recruitment difficulties for the region’s manufacturers yet an increase in the same difficulties for our service sector. There is also a worrying trend that 44% of local businesses across all sectors aren’t operating at full capacity.
A high proportion of businesses also indicated that they had either increased or had a constant cash flow yet domestic sales were noticeably down to 81% from 92% with domestic orders seeing a steady decline. For exporters, overseas orders have fallen significantly from 92% to 76%. Whilst some of these indicators could be a result of previous and on-going stockpiling due to Brexit it is clear that this is still a high concern for businesses.
Over the next few months, we will ensure that the new Prime Minister and Cabinet understand the needs of local businesses. From clarity over HS2 and the M6 toll to fresh engagement on the T Level and apprenticeship system, there is plenty for the government to do, to ensure domestic policies remain in full focus.