Broker spotlight: Wirral Chamber of Commerce
As part of Growth Hub Month, we're shining a light of on each of our Local Growth Hub brokers to provide a glimpse into what they do and what makes them different. In this first spotlight, we talk to Jo Gover, Business Support Manager at Wirral Chamber of Commerce...
LGH: What distinguishes your area from others in the Liverpool City Region?
JG: "Innovative startups, established SMEs and pioneering global giants all call Wirral home. Our peninsula, bordered by the Rivers Mersey and Dee, provides Wirral with both a sense of identity and unique business opportunities.
This geography is the source of competitive advantage for ship builders, turbine manufacturers and a thriving maritime sector. Our skills allow some of the world’s leading innovators, like Bristol Myers Squibb and Unilever to thrive. Our creativity means we rub shoulders with the best in creative and digital sectors.
But it is in manufacturing that Wirral’s star shines brightest. We are makers and creators, from the kiosks that order your Big Mac to the nation’s favourite sea going vessel, manufacturing is the sector that drives our economy."
What type of businesses do you work with in particular in your area?
"Wirral can be seen as the UK in microcosm with a business base that spans all sectors and sizes. Wirral Chamber has the privilege of working with some genuinely inspiring businesses, from aspiring entrepreneurs who work with our Enterprise Hub to global traders that we help to reach international markets. This variety keeps us on our toes, meaning that we’re constantly adapting to new trends and emerging sectors."
How do you go about connecting businesses to support?
"Wirral has a strong sense of business community, and we work hard to cultivate a supportive network. We organise more than 100 business events each year, which bring together businesses from across Wirral on a peer-to-peer basis and also connects them to our Local Growth Hub services.
We provide a relationship manager, a single point of contact, for every Wirral Chamber of Commerce member. We also do the same for everyone who engages with the Local Growth Hub. This person works alongside the business to understand their objectives and help them overcome their barriers to growth.
Our ‘offline’ activities dovetail our very active online and digital marketing activities. We’re shouting about businesses and their positive impact all day, every day - directing people to support and making sure they know where we are when they need us."
What distinguishes you by the support you provide to businesses?
"We’ve been supporting Wirral business since 1912 and are currently the UK’s fastest growing Chamber of Commerce. This means that we understand what it means to grow a business sustainably.
The lessons learned over this time make us a great partner for any Wirral business looking to grow. We’ve managed cash flow and bad debts, navigated technology shifts and recessions, developed new services and invested in talent. We think we’re different because we’re a business in our own right, growing successfully on the strength of our business planning, our commercial partnerships and by understanding our customers."
Can you provide some success story examples of connecting businesses to support?
"There are so many. From helping The Contact Company (which now employs more than 1,200 people in Birkenhead) with a phone and desk at Egerton House ten years ago, to supporting Julie Scrumptious open her Hoylake bakery in February, the projects are vast.
We try to build long term relationships with local businesses, so that they know who to come to when they need support. One example is when we worked with Parity Medical to support investment in new equipment, additional floor space and improved manufacturing processes. In the last year, we’ve supported over £50 million of new investment by SMEs, creating more than 1,500 jobs. Each one gives us tremendous satisfaction."
How do you expect to see the business make-up of your area develop over time?
"It is clear the environment is changing. But our businesses view devolution, Brexit and technology as opportunities, not threats.
Just this week, we’ve seen the announcement of a £1 billion regeneration project in Birkenhead that will transform our waterfront. We’ve heard massive plans for our Enterprize Zone at Wirral Waters. We’re receiving unprecedented enquiries from China and other countries. It is clear to us that in a time of great change there will be myriad opportunities for local, innovative businesses. With our support, Wirral’s construction companies are collaborating in new ways to ensure that they are prepared to deliver these opportunities.
We’re supporting local manufacturers to harness technologies that allow them to compete with the best anywhere in the world. Our digital, creative and cultural businesses are developing a new hub for collaboration and co-working at Pacific Road. Industry is always changing and Wirral’s businesses are ready for it."