If you have been following the news this year, you’d not be mistaken to think that 2013 has been another challenging year for businesses, even if the headwinds have started to die down.
At an international level we saw concerns around the Eurozone reduce but still retain uncertainty for firms trading with European partners. Closer to home, we have seen utility prices remain stubbornly high and small businesses still struggling to gain access to finance. Repairs have been made to the public finance balance sheet, but austerity measures still remained a drag on growth.
Despite this, we have been privileged enough to work with some truly inspirational people this year who are constantly pushing the boundaries. Each and every one has painted a colourful picture of the real people that make Lincolnshire’s business community great.
We have toasted business growth with our members; sharing their joy as they tell us about their latest venture. We’ve also celebrated staff being recruited, contracts being won and expansion plans being delivered.
Our international trade team have helped businesses tap into overseas opportunities, our events team continue to bring businesses together, and our training team has shared the excitement of new apprentices joining a growing business.
But there is no rainbow, without rain. And this year we have also been on hand to support members and businesses manage difficult situations. Issues such as staff redundancies, policy changes like the Living Wage and access to finance have proven to be potential barriers to growth for many smaller businesses and members.
Lobbying for better business conditions is a priority for the Lincolnshire Chamber, and the wider national Chamber network. Together we have lobbied for changes to red tape after listening to what our members tell us. Collaborative policy wins include the extension to the Small Business Rate Relief scheme, and we continue the debate with policy makers in Whitehall for better business support packages.
On a more positive note, praise for the work that we already do with our members has seen us win new business support contracts from Lincolnshire County Council and the district authorities.
This will give us the opportunity to bring more focused support around superfast broadband and start up business advice in the New Year. And we are continuing our work with food producers and growers through Select Lincolnshire for Food project, and the tourism project Visit Lincoln.
Looking ahead to 2014, we must work hard to bring confidence back into the market.
According to our Quarterly Economic Survey, which takes a health check on the local business economy every three month, we saw three quarters of consecutive growth in 2013 which is the best it has ever been.
There is still a long way to go to get us back to where we were pre-recession. And every effort at a local, regional and national level must continue be made to give businesses, and the people in their teams, the tools that they need to succeed and prosper.