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East Midlands Chamber News

Flagship conference outlines region’s vision for a prosperous future

Clear vision, a single voice and a strong sense of identity were just some of the key takeaways from the East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) State of the Economy Conference, which took place at the headquarters of Sports Direct in Shirebrook yesterday (14 November).

The annual flagship conference, headline sponsored by Midlands Connect, the transport arm of the Midlands Engine, brought together some of the region’s most prominent thinkers, influencers and business leaders to discuss both the current state of the region’s economy and, crucially, how the East Midlands can grow and prosper in the future, despite ongoing uncertainty.

The conference, which was also backed by Geldards, Turner & Townsend and hosts Sports Direct, heard an economic update from Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy and External Affairs, in which he drew from the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey data for Q3.

Next came a keynote address from Maria Machancoses, Director at Midlands Connect, on how strategic investment in our road and rail can boost productivity and have a significant, positive impact on our region's - and the UK's - economy.

This was followed by two panel discussions - the first of which centred on the key asks of decision-makers in order to boost business competitiveness in the East Midlands.

The discussion resulted in great insights from panellists Kevin Harris (Partner at RSM, Chair, LLEP), Jillian Thomas (MD at Chamber patron Future Life Wealth Management), Elizabeth Fagan (Chair, D2N2 LEP) and David Watson (Partner at Chamber strategic partner Geldards) – with culture, collaboration, regional identity, sector-specific challenges and opportunities as well as the importance of a clear, cohesive regional voice all recognised as key elements to influencing our future course.

The second panel discussion, The big opportunity - realising the vision, included contributions from Michelle Craven-Faulkner (Vice-Chair, Midlands Rail Forum), Ioan Reed-Aspley (Press Manager, External Relations, at Chamber strategic partner East Midlands Airport), Tania Flask (Director, Turner & Townsend), Jon Parker (MD, Integrated Transport Planning) and Dawn Edwards (Chamber President and MD, Challenge Consulting).

Resilience, connectivity, community, short and long-term planning and understanding what we want to be as a united region were all prominent areas of debate.

Interspersing the two panel discussions was Nick King, Strategic Adviser for Midlands Engine, who spoke of the ambitious vision for the region and how we strategically go about making this vision a reality – including powering the region’s connectivity, investing in transport, trading with the world, accelerating innovation and enterprise and, fundamentally, working together at a regional level.

Chris Hobson, who compered the event, said: “At a time of uncertainty – notably with the impending general election and scheduled departure from the EU – it was fantastic to get so many experts from various fields together under one roof to discuss what we’re doing well, what we can do better and, most importantly, how we drive our region forward in the short, mid and long-term.

“We know how much potential the East Midlands has and there were some very compelling takeaways as to how – with the right level of support – we can realise this potential.

“While there were obvious areas for discussion, there were some interesting elements to come out of the conference that had not been on the agenda for the day – such as the importance of staff wellbeing, retention of talent and the creating of future leaders to drive our region forward.

“This conference has been extremely beneficial in terms of sharing ideas, bringing a cohesive voice to the table while also helping to shape the Chamber’s own asks of decision-makers on behalf of its members.”

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