The times they are a-changin’

Halfway through month one already, one thing that seems guaranteed - in a highly uncertain world - is that the year will fly by again. A sure sign of both the amount that’s going on… and the impending old age of the author.

2018 saw us take significant strides forward, both as a region and in terms of our own objectives as an organisation.

It is clear that 2019 and 2020 represents a highly significant period in shaping the future of this region. The next couple of years will see positive transformational change in the Aberdeen city region, making it an even better place to live for our residents and more attractive to visitors, relocators, students and investors.

We will begin to see the productivity benefits from the AWPR, enjoy cultural experiences at the re-vamped Music Hall and Art Gallery, welcome big acts and global conferences and events to the incredible new TECA, see the world’s biggest cruise liners sail into the new South Harbour and much more.

The Chamber’s Investment Tracker confirms that almost £2bn of major projects were delivered in 2018 and that the future pipeline looks healthy with a further £8bn+ already committed.

We can’t rest on our laurels though and need to look to the next set of horizons to ensure we remain relevant in a highly competitive global economy. But of course, this is complicated by the uncertainty arising from the, still as yet unknown, impact that the ongoing Brexit circus will have on the UK economy and the ability of our business to import and export goods and services as well as access to the labour we need to grow.

On this topic, please rest assured that the Chamber is working tirelessly behind the scenes with our colleagues at the British Chambers of Commerce to ensure both that the voice of business is heard by Government and to prepare a toolkit of practical advice and support for members once the detailed trade implications emerge.

And the seemingly myopic focus and dangerous political dogma on how, when and if we do end up breaking up with our EU neighbours is having the secondary effect of rendering the nation almost ungoverned. With no attention whatsoever being paid to the fundamentals that underpin successful economies. Digital and physical infrastructure, skills and meaningful progress with the Industrial Strategy to name just a few.

So, what are the things that are in our own control and that the Chamber will be focusing on over the next 12 months? Helping to make individual businesses better through our training programmes; insights gained through research; international trade support; providing platforms for networking, business development, best practice exchange and more.

At the same time, we will continue to do our bit to create the economic conditions in the region to ensure success. Having played a key part in writing the refreshed Regional Economic Strategy, we will be taking the lead on a number of the projects including the launch of a Local Export Partnership to increase overseas trading and the development of a narrative for the region; talking up the fact that this is already a great place to live, work, study, visit, invest and do business.

The focus of our policy team will be on improved transport links, ensuring a fair tax deal for our businesses and engaging with the Local Governance Bill to lobby for greater fiscal powers to be devolved to the North-east.

And we will continue to give our future business leaders the platform to design the region of the future through the Vanguard programme - making good stuff happen here that otherwise, would not.

To see more about the Chamber’s activities, take a look at this video here.

I’d like to wish all our members and partners a very happy and successful 2019 - whatever the world throws at us. This is Aberdeen’s time. Let’s all play our part in making it as great as it can be. Together, we can achieve what individually, we could not.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce

Russell Borthwick, chief executive, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce