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Coventry and Warwickshire can overcome economic headwinds, conference hears

Coventry and Warwickshire can overcome the economic headwinds by looking forward and making the most of future opportunities.

That was the overriding message from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Business and Economic Conference at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

The conference – which was headline sponsored by PET-Xi and WCG, supported by WCG and Help To Grow, with PLMR Advent as media partner – was staged as the latest figures showed the UK economy shrank by 0.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2022.

Speakers and panellists addressed issues facing firms across the region including inflation, supply chain problems, recruitment, interest rate rises and energy prices.

But optimism for the region also shone through thanks to the unity across public and private sector as well as the city and the county, and its ability to change and look forward.

The conference, attended by more than 200 business people and regional stakeholders, heard how investing in areas such as future skills and green technology can help to provide the growth for the future.

It was opened and facilitated by Chamber chief executive Corin Crane before an address from president Tom Mongan.

Andy Street CBE, the mayor the West Midlands, sent a video message saying Coventry and Warwickshire was one of the ‘bright spots’ for the economy.

An Economic Panel, including Steve Harcourt, of Prime Accountants Group; Angela Joyce, of WCG; Liam Conway, of Control Energy Costs; Tina Chander, of Wright Hassall; and Simon Evans of Birmingham Airport, delved into the economic issues and some of the solutions to them.

Fleur Sexton, of PET-Xi, then described how it was essential for the region to break down barriers to make the most of the talents of the whole population.

The Building Business Confidence Panel was chaired by Martin Reeves, of Coventry City Council and included Monica Fogarty, of Warwickshire County Council; Fleur Sexton; Martin Sutherland, of Coventry City of Culture Trust; and Timothy Tsang, of Players Entertainment.

The panel explored how Coventry and Warwickshire could ‘look up and outwards’ to understand and make the most of opportunities that would come down the track.

The conference was closed by the inspirational Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who described her personal story that saw her rise from homelessness to the top of the fire service, combined with being a Research Fellow at Cardiff University.

She told the audience: “The worst challenges we face can be our biggest opportunities.”

Corin Crane, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We know that we are facing hugely challenging times as businesses and individuals and we had to address those at our conference.

“Our businesses are being hit by everything from inflation and rising interest rates through to supply chain and recruitment issues. We talked through those but also some of the solutions.

“It shone through that firms are going to need more support with energy bills beyond March next year and that they need to hear that sooner rather than later. They also need incentives to invest in green technology and energy.

“We also looked at the fact that there are 100,000 vacancies in Coventry and Warwickshire and there are similar number of people who are out of work. It’s not as easy as saying as filling those roles with people who are out of work, we have to have a new plan around upskilling and reskilling to address the issue.

“Our Building Business Confidence Panel gave a great insight to how we work together as a region and how by looking ahead and reinventing ourselves, as Coventry and Warwickshire has always done, we can come through this period of uncertainty in a stronger position.

“Businesses can be a force for good and positive change and that’s what I hope everyone takes away from the conference.”

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Pictured: Speakers and panellists at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce Annual Business & Economic Conference 2022.

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