2013 can be a year of stability and growth, says Business West boss

December 31, 2012

Business West managing director Phil Smith reflects on 2012 and looks forward to 2013 as being a year of stability, followed by growth.

“The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a time for both reflection and optimism; looking back over the year to assess what worked and what didn’t work, what we could have done better and the lessons we learnt along the way. With enthusiastic optimism for all the positives that the new year could bring, we think about how we will work to make the most of, and embrace, the opportunities that are presented to us.

2012 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for us all. We started and ended the year in recession with the coalition Government quite rightly sticking firmly to Plan A and deficit reduction. But at what cost to business? We have seen double-dip recession, reduced consumer spending power, the lowest levels of housebuilding for many years and small businesses still struggling to survive. What we didn’t see enough of during the year were incentives to help businesses grow by stalling business rate increases, improving access to finance and kick starting the economy with significant and timely investment in infrastructure. Much of what did come was too little, too late.

On a more upbeat note, who can forget the positivity surrounding the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and all that brought to the whole country. From the Olympic torch relay to the Games itself, it was a fantastic opportunity to showcase on the world stage the best of British, and we certainly did that! While Governments and others are still trying to assess the economic impact of the Games, we will all surely remember the excitement and feelings of national pride generated across the country among individuals and businesses alike.

Looking ahead to 2013, businesses will want to see the economy slowly improving and the green shoots of growth appearing. They will want to see more action, urgency and delivery from Government to remove the barriers to growth, to support businesses to create jobs and to help them expand their operations overseas by encouraging exporting and international trade.

There is much that businesses themselves can do to get the economy moving. But to make this happen quickly and more effectively they need help – help from other businesses, help from Government and local councils, as well as help and advice from business support organisations like Business West.

In 2012 we had some real successes with commitment from Government to the electrification of the main railway line between Bristol and London, strong support for exporting and high-growth businesses as well as start-ups and small businesses, and improved partnership working with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to deliver local priorities on jobs, infrastructure and skills.

In 2013 Business West will continue to provide a local access point for business, providing support and advice, as well as a ‘voice’ for business – lobbying hard on business issues and priorities.

We look forward to seeing what impact the Heseltine Review will have on our local economies and how many of his actual recommendations will be implemented. There are some very real opportunities there for chambers of commerce, businesses and LEPs to grasp, so one to watch for 2013.

Our priorities for 2013 will focus on the issues that local businesses tell us hinder business growth and reduce their ability to create new jobs. These include:

  • Transport and infrastructure – lobbying for the provision of new infrastructure and schemes that create a truly multi-modal approach to transport within and across our towns and cities that supports the needs of residents and the business community
  • Business support – providing advice and guidance for businesses and making the most of Government funding to support business. From the very small to the growth companies, from sole traders to exporters, from start-ups to long standing companies, all businesses at some point in their lifecycle need access to advice and support in a simple and easy manner at an affordable price
  • Exporting – continuing to provide support to businesses wanting to trade internationally and helping to raise awareness of what’s available
  • New homes – continuing to lobby locally and nationally for an increase in the amount of land available for much needed new affordable homes to reduce the current housing crisis and enable better longer term planning for growth
  • Access to finance – supporting the creation of the British Business Bank and working in partnership locally with businesses and the banking community to free up finance for business growth
  • Skills and employability – working with businesses and local skills providers to ensure schemes are accessible and meet the needs of business

If Government can tackle some of these issues then business and the private sector can help inject new life into our flagging economy and create the jobs and growth that will see us move out of recession in 2013. Let’s make 2013 a year of stability and certainty, followed by growth.”

Business West runs the Initiative in Swindon, the chambers of commerce in Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire and the South West Chambers of Commerce, representing a total of more than 6,000 businesses across the sub-region.


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