DELIVERED AT THE 2016 AGM ON 11 OCTOBER 2016
2015-16 has been a busy year for the Chamber. This Spring we held an open meeting for members and local businesses to discuss the role of the Chamber and to help plan future activities, and a lot of what we are doing and planning now has been shaped by the feedback we received.
We have decided this year to make Chamber membership free for 2016 to encourage as many businesses as possible to join, and as a result are seeing a steady stream on new members. This will make the Chamber truly representative of the whole business community in the town. In future we plan to revise the membership fee to a simple flat rate, with no VAT following deregistration this year to make it more affordable to smaller businesses.
Current project: to look at the benefits for our members of working more closely with Somerset Chamber, Inspire (Wessex Chambers) and Business West (Bristol/Bath/S Glos) – and others.
At the open meeting Neil Howlett summed up our lobbying activity as:
“To be a pain in the neck to those in power, and to congratulate them when they do something well”
We commented on the proposed Saxonvale development and were not unhappy when the developer withdrew what we felt was an inappropriate planning application. We have opposed developments on B&T, Marston Gate and Weston Vinyls sites where in each case we feel employment land is being lost in favour of residential development. We frequently meet businesses looking unsuccessfully for business premises in Frome, so this is an area we regularly bring to the attention of town and district councils.
We represented Frome property professionals to urge MDC to approve local search service.
On the plus side, we were pleased to see some first steps towards fulfilling some of our wish list in our 2015 Town Centre Manifesto.
EDUCATION & NETWORKING
Hosted an informal visit by a member of the Byron Bay and Lismore chambers in Australia to learn what those chamber do and what we could learn and implement in Frome.
Having previously run networking breakfasts at most on a quarterly basis, we are pleased to have been able to work closely with FTC and Mairi Connolly of A M Personnel, both of whom were also organising similar events, to deliver regular monthly business breakfast on the 1st Tuesday of every month, with the objective of being town-based most months but held in a local business once a quarter – so far we have held breakfasts at Edventure, Dennis Maps, Frome Community College & DNA Worldwide, with the town centre breakfasts moving from the Archangel to the Cheese & Grain, Assembly Rooms and Old Church School to accommodate the growing numbers who attend.
Again working in partnership with FTC we have been able to deliver a full monthly programme of our popular “Discuss & Do” seminar/workshop events on the 4th Tuesday of each month from March 2016. So far we have held sessions on employment law, The Living Wage, social media, e-commerce, business strategy and ‘cloud’ computing. The October D&D will be a practical workshop on essential health and safety for small businesses.
Once again we received funding from MDC’s “Enterprise Mendip” funds to help us publicise and deliver D&D events and enable us to provide it free of charge to all attendees.
Chamber members supported mock interviews and job fair at FCC
Worked closely with Mark Brookes at FTC to expand the monthly Retail Group which meets on the 1st Tuesday of each month at the Cornerhouse, and, largely due to Mark’s efforts on the ground as Town Centre Community Co-Ordinator, the membership of the group has grown significantly. We are pleased to welcome Mark as a member of the committee where we hope he will continue to be able to help us to support town centre businesses.
Future plans – we are always open to ideas and suggestions for future activities; we are currently looking at the possibility of hosting a Digital High Street conference in 2017.
CO-ORDINATING AND PROMOTION
Helping to promote and publicise the Christmas Extravaganza, Small Business Saturday and other town centre events
Promoted the 2016 Mendip Business Awards and were delighted to see some Frome businesses among the award winners. We plan to work with Frome businesses in 2017 to achieve even more awards for the town!
Committee members attended meetings with FTC looking at feasibility of creating a BID in centre of Frome.
Sponsored the Frome directory published by The List to enable them to include a comprehensive directory of all town centre businesses.