2012 will be another tough year. Political turmoil in the Eurozone and, at home, falling consumer confidence as Government spending cuts continue to bite and the labour market contracts will dent business confidence. Accessing affordable finance is challenging for many companies and motivating workforces is difficult. There are no easy fixes: just hard work, innovation, collaboration, and a dose of good fortune. This region has businesses that have already risen to the challenge and will continue to do so. Michelin and GSK are the high-profile local successes we all know about, but they are not unique. Kangaroo Self Storage, GA Engineering, MTC Media and Axeon are just a few examples of other Chamber members that have prospered in 2011.
We will benefit from major developments planned or underway in the region, opportunities we have because people had the foresight and courage to make long-term strategic plans to transform the local economy, through life sciences, the Dundee Waterfront Project, Carnoustie Country, the V&A and the Angus Centre for Enterprise. More recently we have all been excited because we could be a significant renewable energy hub. The timescales over which these initiatives bring new investment and jobs here will vary and, in some cases, will be medium and long-term. But they will bring jobs and investment, and the big challenge, particularly for the public agencies that are in the lead in delivering the projects, is to get in front of local companies to inform and educate them, so they know what opportunities are coming and they can get ready to take advantage. Life sciences has been a great success story for this area because of the really effective collaboration and joint planning that the key organisations like NHS Tayside, Dundee City Council and the University of Dundee achieved. That model for 'joined up decision making' has served us well in the past and will do so again in 2012.
The Chamber expects the Government to play its part in supporting our members. Global trade is still rising. This means more international opportunities than ever before and effective backing from the Scottish Government will be critical to winning that business. The Scottish Government is spending a bigger proportion of its budget on infrastructure projects but that spend has to filter down to local firms. The Government must deliver a competitive tax regime in 2012. Business Rates could rise by nearly 6% in April 2012. That will damage the economy by making businesses less likely to invest. And they should re-visit their plans to subject colleges to swingeing budget cuts because reducing investment in future skills makes no economic sense. Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce will also raise its game to support local businesses with, amongst other things, an Energy Forum and a Tourism Group, to share market intelligence within these future growth sectors.
In summary, a tough economic climate will challenge everyone in 2012 but there is no reason why companies in Dundee and Angus can't succeed if the businesses themselves, the chamber of commerce, the local public agencies and the Scottish Government do our jobs properly and work together better than we ever have before.