The Party’s not over..

March 28, 2009

Good couple of meetings this last few days.

First was a big black tie do. My first big do as President and my first black tie event full stop. Had to beg, borrow and not steal the gear to wear. In the end my director at work (Living Homes of Somerset, U.K.) happens to be the same height and build as myself and happily offered his suit for the purpose.

My eldest son offered, just before I as due to leave the house, to be my transport in return for ten pounds of fuel, leaving me the opportunity to have a couple or two glasses of house red, for which I am very grateful. The fact that I had been telling everyone who had ears that I was going to this auspicious event still left him puzzled as to why I was, at 6:45 pm on a Thursday evening, sat in the lounge at home  in a full dinner suit. It was only when I mentioned why he offered his services. Maybe it was the fact I mentioned needing to put some petrol in my car that pricked his ears up. A chance to get someone else to pay for petrol is always an incentive!

The meal, The Bristol Chamber Annual Dinner, was a wonderful event with some very informative and friendly fellow diners and a highly entertaining guest speaker in Sir Richard Needham.

The second meeting I enjoyed for some of the same reasons and for a few different ones too.

This was one of our many business breakfasts, held at Rookery Manor http://www.rookery-manor.co.uk/

in conjunction with our sponsors for the breakfasts, Burroughs-Day Solicitors

http://www.bd4law.com/

We always get a good turn out at the morning meetings and this is not in any small part due to the organisational skills of Eleanor Rendall and her team from Burroughs Day. They normally drum up a decent enough speaker, last time it was the West of England Agents for The Bank of England. This time we were lucky to have our local M.P.

Now, that in itself doesn’t sound too bad but the bonus is that our local M.P. has recently been promoted to Shadow Ministerfor Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. So, with the present financial crisis seeing the government suffering badly,  having the opposition minister for business speaking at our event was a  bit of a coup.

John Penrose spoke well, didn’t dodge any questions and explained things well and the guest diners were all very keen to fire questions his way.

The minister didn’t use the opportunity to attack or blame the opposition, or to push a sales pitch for the Conservative Party, but did admit that Whitehall was partly to blame for the present situation. He explained just how and why the country is in the mess it finds itself in, not laying the responsibility at the feet of just the banking fraternity or the government or Whitehall but also explaining that in order for banks to lend such ridiculous sums as 125% mortgages, there had to be a demand from business and the house buying public.

It was felt by all after the meeting that we in the business world and the public in general need a change of thinking, a whole new mind set where greed is no longer good. Gordon Ghecko has left the building.

Our next scheduled chamber evening meeting will be held at Howard’s Honda dealership in Weston-super-Mare and will start at 7pm on Wednesday the 15Th.

It’s official, the big man said it. The Governor of The Bank of England has told us we are definitely heading into recession.

Well, ti’s about time it was made official.The media has been full of little else for months now and it was all getting a bit depressing to be honest. Now it is official we can all stop panicking because historically, once the government has owned up to something, it’s generally a month or more too late.

We have been feeling the effects everywhere in Weston. There is a growing number of empty units that is stretching to all parts of the retail spectrum, from high end luxury goods to essential foodstuffs. Empty units in shopping centres are like beggars on the streets; you can ignore them but you know you’ll think twice about walking that way next time.

Units could be filled with advertising for those shops that are suffering from low advertising budgets or could be used as display windows for other retailers. Either way, some positive image must be promoted through those empty units rather than just empty shops and offices. Empty units portray a decline and turn people off from visiting the area.

In the past, Weston grew out of industry. Part of that growth was through local factories that became specialised and started to cater for a shrinking client base, such as Westlands Helicopters. Once that client cut back or changed supplier, they closed the factories and the people who had moved families, raised families and retired here because of those factories were left with no future. That cannot be allowed to happen again. The businesses that grew to support and trade with those factories were also left to rot. We must learn from the past or resign ourselves to repeat it for eternity.

There is hope for the town, in the form of new developments and positive moves to bring more trade back to the area. Old unused land is being redeveloped for a high tech business park. The local authority has decided that no houses can be built on the land until there are jobs to support the house inhabitants. That will mean less commuting out of town and more prospects for those who live here already but those rules will only apply for a limited time. So far only one name has signed up to relocated to the new park though and unless others follow suit the scheme is destined to failure.

Our local team must pull out all the stops and draw some big names in before it is too late and all their efforts turn to nought. There a re a vast number, perhaps too many in fact, of groups dedicated to improving matters in our town but still there is only a small glimmer of light. Maybe these groups need to stop working separately and just sit around a table and get things done.

The future has some hope in the form of a number of already approved developments which will appear alongside those taking place already plus some new ideas that look to get the go ahead in the next few months. These plans seem to have funding , the essential oil that greases the wheel, so should be able to move along swiftly. They show great promise and , if they all go ahead as promised, will turn our prospects for the better but, as we all know, things can change from day to day so we can only watch and wait and give our support when and where it is needed.

Those who campaign to save the past, to keep Weston as it was and never will be again, are holding back any hope of a golden future for those who stand to follow them in order to satisfy there own selfish desire to never grow old.

We cannot let the past stop the future but without the past we have no future.

It’s a conundrum we must all strive to resolve.