Caroline Williams – infrastructure and help for young people on New Year checklist

Caroline Williams, chief executive, at the Chamber of Trade's B2B networking event at Carrow Road.

Caroline Williams, chief executive, at the Chamber of Trade's B2B networking event at Carrow Road. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

I really enjoy the prospect of a new year. All the disappointments of the previous year seem to fade and a feeling of real optimism takes over.

As a chamber, we like to take advantage of a new year to increase our energy into campaigns that meet the needs of our members and the wider business community.

There are a number of core needs which Norfolk businesses want to see addressed during 2013.

The first is an improvement to Norfolk's infrastructure.

The A11 dualling has started, but we still need to keep the pressure on to achieve an improved A47 and to get the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) started.

Together we have been successful in getting improvements to our rail services higher up the government's priority list, but a real concerted effort will need to be made in 2013 to link the economic benefits to the investment needed.

Technology has revolutionised the way that businesses are run and fast reliable broadband can make or break growth.

Most Read

Better Broadband is on the way and 2013 is the year in which the investment will all kick off. What we need to do as a business community is to identify key growth areas where we would like to see the work begin. It is also important to help all businesses and especially new businesses to understand how to maximise their efficiencies through technological solutions.

Improving the support for start up businesses is also a key issue for Norfolk.

The national league tables indicate that we are falling behind, but there are some fantastic businesses out there and more than 50 of them have joined the Chamber since April.

These businesses need all the support the network can give them as they strive for growth.

The golden thread throughout all our campaigns needs to be how we 'Unlock the potential of Norfolk's young people'.

There is significant good work going on, but the business/education picture is very confusing, which means that many of our young people are at a massive disadvantage and businesses are not engaging as much as they could be.

The feedback from young people is that they are not aware of the local opportunities open to them relating to growth sectors, such as life science and energy, so there is much work to be done on career information and advice.

In addition, the variety of apprenticeships available and their opportunities need to be more widely understood by both business and young people.

So as we start a brand new year, let our business resolution be to use our influence to achieve the local environment we need for Norfolk.

By working together we will not only secure an improved economy, but enable our individual businesses to develop and grow.

Caroline Williams is chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.