Building a strong and united business community
In 2015, a small group of business people in the town proposed a major change to the rather moribund Chamber of Commerce. It was agreed that any business in the town and surrounding villages with an email address could automatically be a member free of charge.
Today the number signed up to BoA Business is over 500. Members vary from world-class engineers and manufacturers to web designers, shop owners to restaurants, writers and designers to lifestyle and fitness coaches.
BoA Business has a key role to play in building a successful future for the town and surrounding villages. As wealth generators, employers and providers of goods and services locally and globally, together we are a key catalyst and driving force for beneficial change. It is in our own interest that we succeed in this.
The stated aims of BoA Business are to:
- create an effective network to help each other develop our businesses.
- give business a voice on key issues impacting the town and surrounding villages.
- encourage businesses to share knowledge and celebrate successes.
- contribute positively to the economic and social sustainability of the town.
A number of self-financing activities are undertaken, including the very successful Business of the Year Awards, monthly networking breakfasts, extensive cross-town retail promotions and a number of other one-off activities.
At the AGM in March last year, approval was given to form a separate BoA Business Strategy Group with the task of exploring opportunities to broaden the scope of BoA Business. It was based on the premise that BoA Business has the legitimacy to speak on behalf of the business community and to work with others to promote the economy of the town and surrounding villages.
The conclusions of that group are summarised below. We are now looking for the endorsement of members, and agreement to progress to the next stage.
CENTRAL PREMISE: A NEW ROLE FOR BoA BUSINESS
The town’s business community is a core player in the future of Bradford on Avon. We believe it is in the community’s own interest to promote the strengths of the town and exploit opportunities for growth and development. The time has come for BoA Business to take on the task not only of boosting the economic activity and success of its 500 members, but also as one of the key partners in the future of the town.
This could be reflected in a number of ways, which might include:
- build on the success of the Business of the Year Awards.
- build on the success of the networking breakfasts – run additional events to provide more opportunities for members to work with each other and to build their skills and capabilities.
- promote the business community to a broader public, including the investment community.
- provide a source of information for links to property and development opportunities.
- work with other groups (e.g. Town Council, Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon, BoA Preservation Trust) to promote core strengths in the town and, where relevant, to defend the town’s economic and built environment heritage – while ensuring that any future development supports the business community.
- provide the creative force to help the town drive major projects, while also providing a view on the business impact of these and other projects – such as insisting that any future housing provision includes employment space to take account of those moving to the town.
- initiate and lead other focused initiatives that will benefit the business community and the wider town community. Central among these might be physical and technology infrastructure improvements designed to help the business community but also benefit the broader community.
- explore and exploit other opportunities for the business community as a whole.
This proposed expanded role has implications in terms of the structure and funding of BoA Business.
At present there is no fee for membership of BoA Business – and we believe this must remain the guiding principle. The additional activities as proposed here will therefore require a continued mix of pro bono activity from engaged members and self-financing – while other activities may require fund-raising, for example through grant funding and/or sponsorship.
There are significant opportunities available to Bradford on Avon in the immediate future, which can make a real contribution to a more successful business community across all sectors. With its 500 members, BoA Business is in a position to help drive progress in wide-ranging areas and to speak on behalf of its members. However, it needs a plan and a process if this is to take root and succeed.
This proposal provides a starting point and a set of recommendations.
Members of the Business Strategy Group: Gerald Milward-Oliver (chair), Toby Cambray, Neil Coxon, James Eades, Veronica Hannon, Claire Hembrough, Mat Hubbard, Klas Hyllén, Caroline Mackay, Alix Paver, Maud Saint-Sardos, Kate Turnbull, Tom Vaughton, Andrew Eberlin, Ruth Warren.