THE last 12 months have been incredibly turbulent in the business world. We have done our best to chronicle the changes in the landscape and now we have called upon some of our regular correspondents to look back on the highs and lows of 2011
James Ramsbotham is chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce
BUSINESSES could be forgiven for feeling that we, along with many regions in the UK, have had another challenging year. In many ways that’s true.
Sadly 2011 claimed some notable casualties, most recently Rio Tinto Alcan. However, I feel that overall the level of success has outweighed the difficulties we have faced.
We have an enormously successful business community that has achieved so much this year.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by the group of seven businesses I had the privilege of leading to the British Chambers of Commerce’s Chamber Awards in London last month.
They are a clear indication that our region holds an incredible depth of talent which ensures that we continue to contribute genuine wealth and job creation to UK plc.
It was a fantastic in March to hear that steel production would be returning to Teesside, along with 1,500 jobs, thanks to SSI.
Days later, news arrived that Hitachi had secured the £4.5bn Intercity Rail Programme at Newton Aycliffe, creating hundreds of jobs at the facility and more than 9,000 in the supply chain.
We have also responded to the challenge of creating apprenticeships. The campaign run in conjunction with The Journal was a great catalyst for our business community to create opportunities for the region’s youngsters.
Kevin Rowan is general secretary of TUC Northern
MANY people will be reflecting on what a tough year it has been. Many workers have lost their jobs, many more remain uncertain and pay freezes and pay cuts ensured families have felt squeezed.
With further public sector job losses predicted and little sign of private sector growth, the year ahead promises deeper and more difficult challenges.
Young people have suffered especially in the labour market and it is local government that is stepping in to provide support through creative apprenticeship programmes and employment support.
The North East has some of the best and most imaginative local authorities in the UK.
In the face of yet more cuts and the economic and social neglect of central Government, it is imperative that in 2012 we recognise, appreciate and preserve how important these organisations are to maintaining the strong sense of community that defines the North East.
Fiona Cruickshank is a Northumberland pharmaceutical entrepreneur who runs SCM Pharma and is board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership
IT HAS been a year of consolidation and reviewing strategy both within our business and at a regional level. Firms like ours have needed to get to grips with the changing business environment and plan for the next three to five years.
Those that have survived the turbulent last few years have tightened their belts, played to their strengths and invested for the future in terms of business structure. As North East businesses, we must help ourselves more and take action rather than wait for landscape to change.
Sarah Green is regional director of CBI North East
FOR automotive and offshore businesses, 2011 was a great year. Unfortunately this is not the story across all sectors. For many businesses in construction and consumer retail the economic conditions continue to be very challenging.
North East exporters have continued to develop their international footprints, reinforcing the region's position as the only English one with a positive balance of trade.
Congrat- ulations to businesses such as Kilfrost, SMD, Multichem and SCM Pharma who have demonstrated significant growth and ambition for the future. CBI research in 2011 showed that these medium-sized businesses have the greatest potential for growth.
Finally, 2011 has been a strong year for the visitor economy and cultural economy. The Turner Prize helped ensure October had the highest ever hotel occupancy in Newcastle.
Vinay Bedi is divisional director of the Newcastle office of investment manager Brewin Dolphin
OUR biggest wish is that 2011 is remembered as the watershed year – when the world’s financial problems were at their worst and the major economies were at their lowest ebb.
We hope it will be remembered as the year when finally the American economy bottomed and began a long, slow road to recovery, dragging with it the economies of the developed world and encouraging the developing world’s strong growth records to be maintained.
We hope it will mark the point in history when the EU finally discovered that playing “happy families” will only work in reality with a strong father figure and strong leadership (even if the prodigal son, Britain, decided to leave home).
But most of all we hope that among all this turmoil and uncertainty the world’s stockmarkets were right to remain stoic in the face of huge uncertainty.