Caroline Williams - ‘The business community wants to buy from local suppliers’

Caroline Williams at Carrow Road in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Caroline Williams at Carrow Road in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

Despite the constant drip of challenging economic news, Norfolk businesses are definitely becoming more open for business.

Despite the constant drip of challenging economic news, Norfolk businesses are definitely becoming more open for business.

For example, from the start of the year there has been a significant increase in activity and engagement relating to our events.

Since the new year more than 150 attended a chamber bowling event and close to 200 attend our MPs event on how to help Norfolk's young people followed by a sold-out Norwich networking breakfast on the Norwich BID last week.

The biggest change, however, can be seen with the willingness of our larger members to make themselves available to meet with smaller businesses with the prospect of doing business.

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This is a marked change from last year when the willingness was there, but there was hesitancy due to the economic prospects. It seems that the business community are feeling more robust and wanting to buy from local suppliers as much as they can.

Last week supported by the Chamber, enterpriseGY held a Meet the Buyer Dinner where Great Yarmouth suppliers and buyers moved around the dinner table between six courses meeting and doing business.

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Much business was also done between the suppliers as well as with identified buyers, as of course all businesses are buyers and sellers. The only complaint to the event was that everyone ate too much!

The same theme is visible with the Chamber's Opportunity 2013 event at Norwich City Football Club next week. Last year many buyers especially from the private sector were hesitant to commit to being at the event as they were not sure of the opportunities were for taking on additional suppliers.

This year we have 40 significant buyers from sectors such as energy, food, construction, public sector lined up under one roof and ready to do business with local suppliers. Due to the number of buyers we have been able to increase the number of appointments per suppliers, making it a really valuable opportunity.

We also expect significant business to be done between the suppliers because as you know when you get two businesses in a room together business will be done.

Another change which has been noticeable is the willingness of organisations involved in net-working to work together, which of course makes perfect sense as they are born networkers.

At Opportunities 2013 we have invited networking and membership organisation from across Norfolk to take part in a mega-lunchtime networking event between their buyer's appointments, workshops and exhibition visiting.

There is always a murmur of complaint that there are too many different networking events going on, but choice is good. And as with any sector activity, they are all have slightly different aims– apart from doing business!

This event will bring more than 13 different types of networking organisations and their members together, which should be lively and great fun.

The serious side of this increased willingness to engage by businesses from across Norfolk apart from improving the local economy and job prospects is that the closer we work together we more we can achieve to improve situation of our young people – but I will leave that topic for another day.

Caroline Williams is chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

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