Jan 31 2013 by Julie Gilbert, Hamilton Advertiser
The Lanarkshire Chamber of Commerce has undergone a huge revamp in a bid to throw off their ‘old boys club image’ and give businesses the support they need during the current economic crisis.
In the past 15 months they have increased their membership from 70 to almost 400 businesses.
At the centre of that has been director John Brown.
He has been a board member for three years, but recognised that major change was needed to bring the Chamber back on to an even keel.
John is chief executive of employment and training company Lifeskills and his company invested £70,000 into the Chamber to keep it afloat financially while change got underway.
He brought in Ellen Begley as a business development manager. Lynsey Kennedy, who had been working at Lifeskills, was brought in as a manager at the Chamber of Commerce.
The board has also been stripped back, and an entirely new board of 15 or 16 members is set to be elected in April.
John said: “There were a lot of people on that board who had been there for a long, long period of time
“They wanted to be a director of the Chamber but they didn’t really want to participate.
“We’ve stripped the board to the bones. We’ve just got a president and three directors just now.”
The new board will be comprised of a president, two members from each of the seven sectors represented by the chamber and a local employment forum representative.
One of the biggest changes undertaken by the Chamber is the number of events they are holding for members.
They have increased the number of events from four in a year to 40. They are usually sector specific for areas such as construction, finance and property.
And they are publishing a monthly magazine all about business in Lanarkshire.
John and the other directors have done a lot of work to bring on board major Lanarkshire companies such as SSE and Mercedes.
They are also keen to build close relationships with both South and North Lanarkshire Councils. They believe the Chamber of Commerce could bring micro-contracts from the councils, such as window cleaning, to small business owners.
And they want to stop businesses moving out of Lanarkshire by helping them with problems such as getting planning permission to expand.
He does not want to see companies leaving Lanarkshire, such as Rolls-Royce who are leaving East Kilbride for their plant in Renfrewshire.
John said: “There’s a reason why these companies came to Lanarkshire in the first place. If people are moving for business-based reasons we need to find out what these reasons are.”
He hopes when companies do leave, the Chamber can encourage others to come in and replace them, so that skills such as engineering are not lost.
The Chamber also want to help alleviate youth unemployment through an apprenticeship scheme and a graduate scheme.
It has been a hectic year but John hopes they can continue to move from strength to strength and would like to thank the Chamber’s staff, members and directors.