Business leaders and politicians came together yesterday to attend a forward-looking event, in which delegates explored the opportunities available to Doncaster’s economy and what can be done to ensure its continued growth.
Titled “Doncaster, What’s Next?”, the business conference was organised by the city’s Chamber of Commerce and took place at the Unipart Innovation Centre in Balby Carr. It was hosted by Tariq Shah, Director of the Vigo Group, and Noreen Nasim, TEDX Speaker and Course Leader from Doncaster College.
Attendees had an opportunity to air their views about the pressing issues of the day, to engage regional government on what needs to be done, and to get involved with important conversations about the future of South Yorkshire.
Representing local and regional government , the speakers included Doncaster’s own Mayor, Ros Jones, Chief Executive of the council, Damian Allen, and Nick Fletcher MP. Each of these distinguished guests gave an overview of where they believe South Yorkshire should be heading over the next 10 years, as well as the major economic projects and campaigns that are currently in the pipeline.
They also spoke about how we must use our newly bequeathed City Status to our advantage, so that we can develop our reputation further, rather than simply resting on our laurels. Delving further into this ambitious vision, South Yorkshire Mayor, Oliver Coppard, then took to the stage near the end of the conference, to talk about what he will be prioritising in his new role.
Meanwhile, from the private sector there were business experts like Tom Rumboll, CEO of SYNETIQ, Rachel Harwood, Executive Director of Doncaster Racecourse, Andrew Austwick, Managing Director of Finance for Enterprise, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, and many more. The full list is available to view on the Chamber website.
Over the course of the 5 hour event, these panellists explored pertinent issues like: what would make Doncaster a better place to do business; how we can better drive innovation; the biggest misconceptions about our city, and the difficulties that many firms are facing when it comes to the skills shortage. They all took the time to field questions from the audience as well, via a series of lively Q&A sessions.
On that last note, the conference also saw the debut of the region’s new People & Skills Manifesto. Devised by the three South Yorkshire Chambers (those being Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley & Rotherham) and informed by years of in-depth research, this progressive document lays out over 40 practical recommendations that will help local government to create a new and improved skills strategy that better meets the needs of the area’s employers.
As for what else is in the immediate future for Doncaster, we have several exciting campaigns running at the moment. Right now, we are in the middle of bidding for a new hospital and to be named the home of the Great British Railways (GBR). Plus, Doncaster is also looking forward to hosting part of the Rugby World Cup in Autumn, with a number of games taking place at the Eco-Power Stadium. Of course, with us now having achieved City Status we are in a better position than ever before to campaign for these big opportunities and others like them.
Speaking about this and the outcomes of Thursday’s event, Dan Fell, Chief Executive for Doncaster Chamber, said: “We heard a lot of rich and informed debate about the future prosperity of Doncaster here today. There were individual stories of entrepreneurship and tenacity that, I hope, will motivate and inspire everyone who attended. We also heard how the outside world is sitting up, taking notice, and recognising Doncaster as a great place to do business.
“However, we also heard about a lot of challenges that are still facing our business community. While we have a great deal to celebrate at the moment —including the recent success of our City Status bid — some very real issues were flagged that we need to address. These range from acute people and skills shortages, to economic hardships and a lack of commitment from the government when it comes to levelling up South Yorkshire.
“Our conference was focussed on highlighting these problems and finding out what we can do to solve them. From the productive discussions we’ve had here this morning, we have come away with a lot of homework, for Doncaster Chamber, for our regional partners and for national government.
“Within a week, we will be telling the wider business community confirming what the next steps are and will be signposting them on how to get involved in Doncaster’s future success. When the business conference returns next May, we expect to be held to account on the things we have set out to do.
“Doncaster, What’s Next has been a rousing success, generating stimulating conversation and many fantastic ideas. I’d like to congratulate everyone who was involved in making this happen so smoothly, from my colleagues at the Chamber, to our guest speakers, and our panellists. Finally, I also want to say a huge thank you to Noreen and Tariq for being such capable hosts, as well as to Unipart and DigiRail for being our supportive sponsors and to CFD Catering for providing the food and refreshments.”
Echoing these sentiments, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “It was so inspiring to see just how determined and optimistic Doncaster’s business community is. Everyone in the room was visibly passionate about securing the best possible future for their city and I am grateful to Doncaster Chamber for inviting me to be part of it all.”