Stuart Dawkins, a former communications director for a FTSE 100 bank who has sat on numerous strategic boards across the region, is the new president of East Midlands Chamber.
He brings wide-ranging business experience, having spent 18 years at Alliance & Leicester, including seven years heading up corporate communications. Stuart departed following its acquisition by Santander in December 2008 and has since undertaken non-executive director roles for organisations including the Chamber, EMB Group, Leicestershire & Rutland Community Foundation, East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, De Montfort University, and Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I Sixth Form College in Leicester.
He was inducted into the honorary role at the Chamber’s annual general meeting, which was held at the Museum of Making in Derby today (13 December), taking over from Futures Housing Group chief executive Lindsey Williams.
New president urges businesses to support their communities and young generation
In his first speech as president, Stuart – who is also secretary of Welland Valley Cycling Club and on the board of Leicester City’s supporters’ group Foxes Trust – set out two priorities for the coming year.
These are to build on the Chamber’s stated mission “to enhance East Midlands businesses and communities” by encouraging firms to further engage with and support their communities, as well as have a real impact on the prospects of future generations within the region.
He said: “If there is one thing the past two or three years have shown us all – as individuals and as businesses – it is how connected we all are: connected through our supply chains, connected to the services that support the places we live in, to the places our families live in.
“Business is a fundamental and vital part of our society. It is the engine of wealth. But, at heart, we all live in places; and our customers live in places; and our staff live in places; and our loved ones live in places. And those places form communities.”
Stuart urged businesses with employees aged under 35 to engage with the Chamber’s Generation Next network for young professionals and business leaders, which has grown to more than 320 members since launching in 2020.
He added: “This priority also means a focus on, for want of a better phrase, ‘Generation Next-but-one’. On the young people whose education and life achievements can be helped by more and better access to business – be that for work placements, inspirational visits, mentoring, advice, or simply by being made aware of what career opportunities are out there.
“The disconnect between business, education and young people is often talked about. It is not solved easily, but it is something we can and should all aspire to improve.”
In line with tradition, Stuart nominated three charities from across the three counties covered by the Chamber to benefit from fundraising activities throughout the year. In 2023, these will be Foundation Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation, and Nottinghamshire Community Foundation.
He said community foundations are “gems” in their areas as they have a role to ensure that funds get to local charities and other groups where the biggest impact on local needs will be felt.
Record amount raised for outgoing president’s charitable fund
In her outgoing speech, Lindsey Williams – who continues to sit on the Chamber’s board of directors – reflected on key successes for the Chamber throughout her year as president.
These included placing thousands of young people into jobs via the Kickstart Scheme, launching a Business Manifesto for Growth in Westminster and being named the UK Chamber of the Year by the British Chambers of Commerce.
Referencing the venue’s heritage in silk manufacturing, she said: “As I’m sure you know, once all those threads are woven together, silk is stronger than steel. I feel the same way about our Chamber – whatever our individual strengths and specialisms, together we form something really study and special.”
Lindsey presented her three nominated charities – Focus, Treetops Hospice and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust – with cheques for their equal share of the £15,000 raised throughout 2022, a record total for the Chamber.
New vice-president and awards for long-serving members
During the Chamber’s AGM, which was hosted by chair of the board of directors Ian Morgan OBE, SMT College Group principal and CEO Dawn Whitemore was elected as the new vice-president. Daniel Nikolla was installed as Generation Next chair, replacing Emma Baumback, who has joined the Chamber board.
Senior leaders from the Chamber’s Business of the Year winners for Derbyshire (Katapult), Leicestershire (Scope Construction) and Nottinghamshire (Copley Scientific) gave speeches and there were presentations to Copley Scientific and John A Stephens for 50 years in membership.
The Chamber’s chief executive Scott Knowles gave a presentation about the Chamber’s activities over the past year and an overview of its financial position, while also unveiling a new branding for the organisation – which will soon include a new logo and website.
Key events in 2023 include the Celebrating of Culture and Communities on 17 March, Manufacturing and Trade Conference on 6 April, People and Skills Summit on 6 July, Generation Next Awards on 13 July, Sustainability Summit on 20 September, Energy Summit on 30 November, and State of the Economy Review on 14 December.