Shropshire Chamber of Commerce’s summer conference has been declared a huge success.
A host of high-profile speakers took to the stage at the Mercure Telford Centre Hotel for the first part of the week’s big business double bill in the county.
They included the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Shevaun Haviland - a former head of operations at 10 Downing Street - who delivered the morning keynote address.
She told the packed conference hall: “There are challenging headwinds for us all, but what I hear when I travel round the country is real business optimism and resilience, and the ability to adapt and innovate.
“We know that when businesses thrive, people and communities do too. Being part of a business community has never been more important – because a joined-up business community is a prosperous one.”
She said the BCC was campaigning to create an environment built around ‘The three Cs’ - certainty, clarity and confidence for people to invest.
And she said the data and information provided by Shropshire businesses in the chamber network’s quarterly economic survey was vital in allowing her to brief the Chancellor, and governor of the Bank of England, on the needs, concerns, and wishes of businesses.
The afternoon’s keynote session came from the co-founder of musicMagpie, Walter Gleeson, who gave an insight into how the business became a multi-million pound operation which floated on the stock market last year.
He shared some of the challenges of having to scale-up operations to meet a sudden surge in demand, and urged businesses to constantly strive for ‘the next thing’, and not be afraid of taking risks.
Mr Gleeson revealed how he had now taken a step back from the day-to-day operations of musicMagpie to pursue other investment interests, including becoming a director of AFC Telford United, and launching a new investment company, Highclear, to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The team from the University of Wolverhampton’s Telford campus brought along its Praga R1 race car – which has been bought thanks to Highclear’s investment.
Other headline speakers during the day included Shrewsbury-based business psychologist Heidi Hunter-Cope who delivered an interactive session on how companies can get recruitment strategies right more often.
Joe Lockley, the founder of Shifnal-based Bright Star Boxing, also gave an insight into how his company was using the sport of boxing to help those who have fallen out of mainstream education to rebuild their lives and find new hope.
His colleague Stu Cook also took to the stage to share his story, and demonstrate some of the boxing disciplines which he said had helped to bring him back from the brink of suicide.
The conference also included two panel debates. The first focused on education and training, with Telford College principal and Marches LEP skills champion Graham Guest, Shrewsbury Colleges Group CEO James Staniforth, and Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training.
They explained how education providers are working to forge closer links with the business community to ensure they were delivering the sort of skills which are needed.
The afternoon panel debate turned the spotlight on manufacturing, with Richard Hinckley of Shrewsbury-based bridge builder Beaver Bridges, and Jay Schofield from Bridgnorth-based high-end automotive specialists Grainger & Worrall.
Running alongside the conference was a showcase and networking area, where dozens of local employers set up stands.
“It was a fantastic way to kick off a massive week of business events for us,” said Ruth Ross, Shropshire Chamber’s deputy chief executive.
“You could tell from the audience interaction with our presentations, panel debates and Q&A sessions that the line-up delivered valuable, practical, and useable tips and information. We have had some tremendous feedback from delegates.”
Next stop is Telford’s International Centre on Friday evening for the Shropshire Chamber Business Awards, where up to 600 people will gather for a huge night of celebration.
You can view the gallery of images from the conference by clicking here.