Chamber of Commerce reinvigorates strategy

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A BORDERS business organisation has introduced sweeping changes and is about to move into its next period of growth, its members heard this week.

The Borders Chamber of Commerce has shaken up its finances, changed virtually its entire board and polished up its strategy in the past year – and it is about to embark on a major membership drive.

Directors and members at its annual meeting in Peebles on Tuesday were told that it had been reinvigorated and given a whole new lease of life.

There are plenty of good reasons for local businesses to join and become involved, convener James Aitken – who has only been in the job for a matter of months – told those present.

He said: “The Borders needs a business organisation – or even organisations – whose priority is to represent the interests of the community.

“We have decided that we must be financially viable, we must not be reliant on external funding, and we must not be just another talking shop or boys’ club.”

Mr Aitken said that the chamber’s finances were in a much improved state but that, like many other businesses, it had been forced to take some hard decisions in the last year to reduce its overheads.

He went on: “That included the board having to make a valued employee – in fact, our sole employee - redundant. This has led to an increased workload for the directors.”

He said the chamber was in discussion with Scottish Borders Council and other business bodies in the area so that efforts to help local companies to flourish could be co-ordinated and maximised.

Other steps being taken to ensure the re-launched chamber is lively and relevant and to appeal to new members include: freezing membership fees and in some cases offering a discount; introducing sessions with top speakers, including former Scottish Government enterprise minister Jim Mather in October and European Parliament agriculture committee member Alyn Smith in November; holding regular networking events; encouraging local MSPs of all parties to hold business surgeries; introducing a new web site and boosting communications; and appointing more directors to bring in more expertise.

Mr Aitken added: “Let us not forget that there are many great things going on in the Borders just now.

“And there’s the return of our railway that should never have been taken away in the first place. – we must ensure that we fully realise its potential. That includes making sure that Tweedbank is not the final stop on this line.”

Among others at the annual meeting were Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame and Scottish Chambers of Commerce Chief Executive Liz Cameron.

Anyone interested in joining the Borders Chamber of Commerce should contact gordon.innes@tontinehotel.com.