Putting our region front and centre through innovation and collaboration

26 November 2021

With this being my first official column as the newly-elected president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, I must first pay tribute to my predecessor, Steve Allen, writes Deb Leary

Steve took on the role with true passion and, when the world was hit by the pandemic, he helped steer the Chamber and its members at a time when so much was unknown. 

His leadership has meant the Chamber is in an excellent place today and continues to work hard to support its members through what continue to be challenging times. 

I feel incredibly privileged to have been elected as president - only the third woman in the organisation’s 208-year history.

I’m particularly proud as a born and bred Brummie. Local roots are important and with a mother from Small Heath and a father from the Black Country I certainly tick that box. 

I am also delighted to say that throughout my presidency my nominated charity will be PANS PANDAS UK.

Pans and Pandas are medical conditions which present primarily with symptoms such as OCD, eating restrictions, anxiety and behavioural regression. These conditions are caused by a response to a common infection such as strep throat or chickenpox. 

Children are unable to attend school and parents often lose their jobs and businesses.  The charity supports around 4,500 families who are affected by these life changing conditions, as well as offering education to medical professionals and schools. I know that our communities are incredibly kind and I know that the region will be generous in their support of this little known charity.

As CEO of Forensic Pathways for 20 years and its new threat intelligence brand Clarifyi.com, I know the importance of continued innovation and its impact on growth.  Innovation brings increased opportunities for collaboration and positive social impact regionally, nationally and internationally. As a consequence, my themes as president will be global trade, innovation and collaboration. 

My presidency will focus on putting Greater Birmingham front and centre. It is about not only reaching out but also showcasing what the region represents and, with the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, the timing is perfect to focus on the best of what we have to offer.

The past two years have been a test of our resilience.  Brexit and the pandemic have shown how globally-connected and reliant we are and while this brings challenges it also brings opportunity.  

On many aspects, we have to come together globally in order to address fundamental issues -  even more so when you look at the challenges associated with the recent COP26 summit.

The challenges we have are global, whether it is climate change, or security threats through our increased connectivity.

As a Chamber, we have a focus on environmental challenges and sustainability and as a region we have a growth in companies in the digital space - including security, cyber and medical – who are focused on innovative technologies for the international market. 

From an international trade perspective, my presidency started within an hour of being elected as I attended my first official duty – welcoming the Czech Chaber of Commerce to the city.

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome a fellow Chamber, led by their vice president Mr Jakubsky, together with a delegation of outstanding business from the Czech Republic. 

This was their first visit to the region, but most definitely not their last. Of course, no visit to Birmingham in the run up to Christmas would be complete without a visit to the German Market! 

This is the start of a long association with the Czech Republic. It is intended that during 2022 both Chambers will look to bring businesses together and develop lasting trade links, including potential trade missions.

Through our companies and world-class universities our region has  the best of the best with the power to innovate and collaborate and develop international connections and trade. 

I look forward to contributing to its success and to focusing on our fabulous businesses and universities within future articles.

Deb Leary is the president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and CEO of Forensic Pathways

This column first appeared in the Birmingham Post

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