John McCabe

John McCabe, President, North East England Chamber of Commerce

Business at the heart of a Working North East

John McCabe, President, North East England Chamber of Commerce, outlines the key priorities for the year ahead

Our region has an unrivalled track record in manufacturing, exporting and more recently digital technology. We have ground-breaking businesses who lead the world in their field. Companies of all sizes and sectors from global car giant manufacturers to high street retailers are major employers and contributors to the success of the North East.

This strong economic backdrop gives us fantastic opportunities on which to build on and grow.

The Chamber’s role as the largest business organisation in the region, representing over 3,000 employers, is to support companies to reach their potential. Their priorities for success set our agenda. Through our in-depth discussions with members we have five clear key priorities for our region for the coming year.

The first of these is the creation of an Influential North East which is essential if we are to close the gap between our region and the rest of the country.

This area of work focuses on what is needed to support businesses at a strategic level such as calling for the Government to create a true Northern Powerhouse. We will be also ensuring that the business community is at the heart of the devolved powers in Tees Valley and North of Tyne.

Our reputation as an exporter is evident from the long-standing statistics of a positive balance of trade. We see one of the key focuses of the economy in 2018 to be progress towards a positive trade deal with the EU post Brexit. This uncertainty is hugely detrimental to companies which is why we are pushing for a deal and clarity as quickly as possible.

It is imperative we exploit opportunities to expand our international reputation and give businesses the right platform to sell themselves overseas. We continue to push the Government to provide more support for this key area.

The North East historically suffers from under investment in transport infrastructure although recent decisions have helped but there is still much to do. We know that connectivity is of paramount importance to our members and the business community as a whole. Our region needs to have a regional rail network that is a fast and efficient link to the rest of the UK and beyond. We are campaigning to get more investment to achieve this.

We want the North East to be the most competitive region in the country. To help deliver this aspiration the public sector needs to take a more business-friendly approach to procurement. There are substantial contracts available which would make a significant impact on North East firms and we want to ensure they have the best possible chance of competing for them.

Underpinning all of this we need a Working North East where everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the North East economy. The route we support for this area of work is increasing an uptake of high quality apprenticeships and improving the skills of those already in employment as well as a significant improvement in the quality of careers advice.

Looking to the future we constantly monitor how our region is faring in relation to the rest of the country through detailed research including our Quarterly Economic Survey and employment statistics. This information shapes our knowledge of how companies are performing and highlights any areas of concern for them and helps focus our work for the coming year.

We know that together we grow stronger and 2018 may have challenges but also great opportunities.