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A year of challenges and opportunities

BY RICHARD SHEEHAN

It is likely that much of the business landscape for 2018 will be a mirror image of 2017.

With the ongoing sparring between the UK and the EU set to run and run, we can expect continued uncertainty which will directly impact on business confidence, investment decisions and economic growth.

However, we must say that we have witnessed on many occasions the amazing resilience and ‘roll your sleeves up’ mentality of our business community, as they make the most of what is available, it’s just what business people do.

As we have passed through 2017 we have been delighted to see and provide support for the significant amount of Shropshire goods and services being exported around the world. Many have gone to new markets outside the EU with the Middle East and Americas high on the activity lists.

It is widely expected that business will come under increasing cost pressures through 2018 with the pound still weak against the Dollar and Euro. Raw material costs are high on the list of concerns for our businesses; as an example, paper costs have increased by 30% in the last 12 months, impacting on profitability and leading to price increases.

With unemployment levels low and ongoing uncertainty for EU nationals impacting on recruitment of skilled labour, it is highly likely that we will experience pressures on wage demands, further compounded by potential staff churn, all leading to higher business costs and impacting on inflation

We can expect our 2018 journey to deliver continued challenges around productivity. Government must do more to incentivise the use and development of technology to combat the expected deferred business investment fuelled by uncertainty.

As the county’s chamber, we are well aware of the need for connectivity and collaboration. We will continue to be the catalyst that brings our businesses together as they seek out new opportunities and relationships.

We have expanded our focus to sector specific events with our Manufacturing and Professionals Partnerships going from strength to strength. 2018 will see us launch a number of technology-based projects that will enhance our offering and create economic wealth.

Our policy work has never been more important, with our Quarterly Economic Survey feeding into Westminster making sure the voice of Shropshire business is heard, helping to shape Government policy of the future. We are committed to expanding our work on behalf of our business community, making sure we are representing business in the areas that really matter.

Brexit - whatever the outcome of our negotiations - will significantly shape our economy for the foreseeable future, and the 52 accredited Chambers of Commerce are ready, willing and able to ensure Government doesn’t lose sight of the unintended consequences on business that the wrong type of agreement can have. Accountability is key in this.

We are committed to supporting the work of the Marches LEP and other contributors to our economy. Working in collaboration for the good of Shropshire and our economy, we will make sure that we profile opportunities for support to our wider business community, making sure if its available and if you need it you know about it.

Wishing the Shropshire Business Community every success in 2018 and assuring you that your Chamber is here to help.

http://www.fsb.org.uk/fsbconnect

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