Attendees at the 138th annual general meeting of the county’s oldest and largest not-for-profit business voice, representation and support body heard about both its own robust trading performance and its hopes for Suffolk’s economic recovery.
During the meeting held late last month at Hintlesham Golf Club, participants were given updates as to the Chamber’s own experiences during the last year and those of its members.
In spite of the very challenging economic conditions facing businesses, Suffolk Chamber was pleased to inform the AGM that the Chamber’s membership levels had increased and there had been a rise in the number of businesses directly benefiting from its business support and advice services, including those delivered by the New Anglia Growth Hub which the Chamber manages on behalf of partner New Anglia LEP.
Suffolk Chamber’s chief executive, John Dugmore, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved – staff, the board, our members and the wider business community – for working together so well over the last year in the most trying circumstances imaginable. Team Suffolk can hold its head high as to how it has responded to these challenges and your Chamber stands ready to continue to support our businesses community.”
The AGM saw Catherine Johnson, partner at Birketts LLP, take up the role of Chamber President, succeeding Paul Briddon as his two years in the role have now come to an end.
Catherine, said: “For many businesses, 2021 was a year of recovery from the economic impacts of COVID19, with most Suffolk businesses showing good levels of growth. But these 12 months have also seen raw material, energy and labour cost rises firmly and worryingly become embedded into their day-to-day trading realities. As a result, Suffolk Chamber continues to lobby Government to reduce the short-term tax burdens on companies to allow them to continue their recovery beyond the current period of high inflation.”
In spite of these short-term challenges, Catherine outlined why Suffolk had what it took to prosper more than other parts of the country:
“It’s down to the sheer diversity of our business base. Suffolk is home to a dazzling range of sectors and so we are not beholden to any one sector’s fortune alone. Our risk is spread evenly’’. “Indeed, Suffolk is well represented in many of the growth sectors that will drive the UK economy forward in to a new normal, including renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, Digi-Tech, Life Sciences, ecommerce fulfilment, tourism and land based economy.”
Catherine also thanked Paul Briddon for his long years of service to Suffolk Chamber, especially his time as President which coincided almost entirely with the COVID19 pandemic.
“Paul has shown calm and thoughtful strategic leadership in that time and has been very supportive to both the staff and his fellow board directors. His is a formidable example to follow, but I promise to do my best.”
The AGM also confirmed Nick Evans, director of sales at Treatt will be Suffolk Chamber’s vice-president for the next two years, welcomed Paul Ager, divisional port manager at APB, onto the bard for the first time and thanked a previous president, Graham Abbey, managing director of Factotum, for his 12 years of board-level service.