President's Message - March 2019

Posted: 28th March 2019, 12:06pm

A Review of our Year


Last week’s Chamber AGM gave me the opportunity to review the last 12 months, to thank those who have worked so hard for the Chamber and to look forward to the forthcoming year.


I can’t believe that it is a year ago that I donned the ‘bling’ for the first time! It was a daunting prospect taking over as President but the past year has been a thoroughly enjoyable one, getting to know the business people of our district and representing the Chamber on your behalf. It gives me great pride to wear the chain.


What continually impresses me about the District’s businesses is the level of mutual support that exists amongst us within a competitive environment and the degree to which companies and individuals wish to engage with the wider community.


Over the last 12 months we’ve supported several charities doing vital work including - Herts Young Homeless, Youth Talk and the newly founded organisation It’s OK to Say.   


There have been several notable highlights over the last Chamber Year. Once again our Community Business Awards celebrated, acknowledged and honoured some outstanding talent in the District. I’ve been involved in the Awards since their inception and every year I have been humbled by the dedication, effort and good work being done across our district for the betterment of business and of our community. There are so many people going that extra mile to deliver an exceptional service and make a difference. I look forward to the Awards later this year and ask you all to start thinking about who you think is worthy of being nominated.


St George’s Day was once again an amazing event. I know the speaker may not have been to everyone’s taste but it was hugely topical and served to send up those unable to see the benefit in tolerance; respect; diversity and inclusivity and the ability to absorb different cultures and traditions into a harmonious cohesion.


Diversity and inclusion was the subject of our breakfast meeting presented by Anne Hurst of Pwc in September. Talking to members it was acknowledged that a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy is now vital to increasing business success.


Our business breakfasts were well attended and covered a diverse range of topics as ever. St Albans City Football Club told us about their aspirations for a new ground. Bim Afolami talked about his role as an MP, the view of Brexit from within parliament, and the state of the rail service to London. We had a talk on the state of business from Esther McVey, (then Work and Pensions Secretary). Julian Steer, Group Economist at ArcelorMittal, the world largest steel company, discussed what the business year ahead might hold for us all, in the face of an uncertain Brexit outcome. 3 months on, we’re still waiting for clarity and certainty. We had our annual update from St Albans District Council when Alec Capmbell and Amanda Foley gave an honest assessment of the Council’s performance and aspirations. And Cllr Mary Maynard, Planning Portfolio Holder at St Albans City and District Council, joined us for our recent Business Breakfast to update us on the New Local Plan and the challenges and opportunities it presents for the area over the next 15-20 years.


At our networking lunches at The Loft, Lussmanns and Thompsons, we welcomed over 25 new member firms attending their first Chamber event. Speed Networking evenings have introduced more new members to the chamber - and have included a presentation on “the importance of video content in business” – something we will be embracing at our future business breakfast, meetings and events.


Last year’s Business Festival featured a broad range of events – including seminars, workshops, an introduction to mindfulness, presentation skills, foraging walks and gin tasting.


I talked last year about extending opportunities to as many people as possible, particularly the young – the next generation of business leaders.

We’ve been looking at ways we can develop this and I hope that in the near future we can introduce a number of initiatives in this regard - possibly a Student Business Festival - though minus the gin tasting.


It was uplifting to see so many young people taking part in the Remembrance Day Parade – where I had the privilege and honour of laying a wreath at the War Memorial on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.


I’ve also taken part in the Business Panel on Roberto Perrone’s BBC Three Counties Radio – while Brexit inevitably loomed large, other topics of discussion, on which I tried to look well informed, included Crossrail, the Gilet Jaunes protests and the drop in high street footfall.


And the Chamber Winter Ball was our annual chance to get dressed up and let our hair down - with colleagues, family and friends.


One of the things I value most about Chamber membership is the team of friends and contacts it has provided. The trust and respect generated between like-minded individuals is invaluable.


There's nothing like talking to other business people for sharing issues and challenges, sparking new ideas, refining old ones, and making essential contacts. I hope we continue to be your ‘go to’ organisation for events both formal and informal - and that we can encourage more of our local businesses to get involved. If you’re engaging with a local firm that’s not a Chamber Member please encourage them to join – the more businesses we represent the even more effective our voice will be


I’d like to thank Lisa, Anna and Emma in the Chamber office for all their hard work and contribution to the running of the Chamber. We cannot underestimate Lisa’s contribution to the success of the Chamber over the last 14 years – she has been instrumental in getting the Chamber to where it is today: arguably the foremost and most influential business group in the region. And I’d like to thank the directors for all their support and for giving their time so freely and willingly to the Chamber.


And as my first year as President ends, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your involvement in Chamber activities through the year and in particular to those business who have sponsored our various events – without your support we couldn’t put on the range and quality of events we do.


In the face of political and economic uncertainty at present, one thing remains certain: throughout the forthcoming year we will continue to support our Members, engage with other organisations, provide Continuing Professional Development opportunities, networking and social events - and act as an authoritative voice for business in the District. 

Alastair Woodgate

Back to News