Chris Sargisson of Norfolk Chamber: Success is everywhere in Norfolk – so let’s tell the rest of the country

The chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Chris Sargisson, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber, on why the county must stop apologising for itself – and start talking about its many strengths.

As 2017 draws to a close we'll all reflect on the year, and make resolutions for the next one. It's particularly appropriate for me to take stock as December sees the close of the year in which I took up my role with the Chamber.

Perhaps the best way for me to do that, or articulate it, is to acknowledge what I've learned, or in some cases had confirmed, about our county and its commerce.

I know now for certain that success and optimism is everywhere in Norfolk; but I also know that we don't see it or talk about it enough.

Norfolk's many genuine and relevant success stories need exposure. We need to communicate the developments in green energy and technology. The country needs to be reminded of the county.

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Norwich, one of the UK's fastest-growing cities, needs more national recognition.

I know that we should start by changing the language and approach we use when promoting the region. There needs to be a profound shift away from apology and towards brilliance. Most of what we believe holds us back is no longer relevant, so let's change the message.

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There are, and always will be, things on the shopping list but so much is already going on that doesn't get promoted.

It's clear to me now that 'skill' is one of our region's biggest challenges.

Our growth is in itself creating a skill shortage. In the construction industry more people are leaving than joining. It's mainly because of age. EU uncertainty could reduce the numbers further yet, and this at a time when we are trying to double the number of homes built.

I know that at the Chamber we need to put real energy into working in partnerships to support ideas around training, re-skilling, apprenticeships and work-based placements

I'm absolutely clear that the 'tech revolution' in Norfolk is right under our noses. Order books in the technology sector are filling up. The Silicon Broad is real. But technology needs skills too. More skilled coders, more investment and space to incubate and grow are essential requirements. This is a sector that, for Norfolk, is laden with potential. It's highly prized but, like time itself, will wait for no-one. To coin a phrase, if we snooze, we lose.

And I know this. To truly be the Norfolk Chamber we need to be 'in' Norfolk. We need to put leather on the city streets and we need get into the rural areas where we can be relevant and deliver value.

Technology will help us enormously in communicating and delivering our strategies. But, to unify the county's businesses, and become a powerhouse of success and innovation, Norfolk will need an army. We're here. Join up.

In closing, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy, and prosperous New Year.

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