19 June 2017

The South’s Businesses Unite at the Business South Annual Conference 2017

Businesses from across the South of the UK joined together last week at the renowned Business South Annual Conference.

L-R Alastair Welch, Port Director, ABP Southampton; Graham Baldwin, Vice Chancellor, Southampton Solent University; Gemma Lacey, Director of Sustainability and Communications, The Southern Co-operative; Steve Frampton, Principal, Portsmouth College; Dawn Baxendale, Chief Executive, Southampton City Council; John Mitchell, Group Chief Executive, Business South; Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO, Flybe; Alastair Fee, Business Correspondent, BBC SouthCelebrating 10 years of the organisation’s prestigious Champion Programme, the 2017 event took place on Friday 16 June, at Hilton at The Ageas Bowl near Southampton with 180 businesses from across the region in attendance.


High quality speakers from both the private, public and educational sectors delivered the clear message: in current times of economic and political uncertainty there must be a willingness from the business community to adapt and do things differently, and at the heart of this lies collaboration and learning from each other.


Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of Flybe, addressed delegates as the keynote speaker and spoke around the theme of prosperity at the event.  “1.72 million Flybe passengers passed through Southampton Airport last year and as such the region is an incredibly key location for us” explained Christine.  “There are tremendous opportunities for Flybe to connect and engage with communities and to establish a reputation for excellence in serving our customers. Right now, businesses need to be resilient, we need to be flexible, to understand trends and to be prepared to try new concepts.  One of the best ways in which we can do this is to learn from each other and to understand that prosperity should be achieved not just for the individual businesses but for the business community as a whole.”


Alastair Welch, Associated British Ports Director shared his experience and vision for the Port of Southampton, one of the key assets for the place in which we do business.  “The Port of Southampton is of great importance locally, regionally and nationally,” Alastair said. 

“It is the UK’s biggest export port, the country’s most efficient container port, Northern Europe’s biggest cruise port and it plays a central role in the UK export industry supply chain.  The Port is rapidly running out of space, but there is great potential for sustainable growth to further support UK trade with the rest of the world. We are keen to explore this to ensure we can meet the growing needs of UK export industry and to secure additional jobs in the area.”



Gemma Lacey, Director of Sustainability & Communications at The Southern Co-operative explored the responsible business agenda and the importance for businesses to invest in their people. “The businesses that we will see prospering in the future will be those that recognise the sustainability challenges we face today and seize the opportunities to address them” explained Gemma. “15.2 million days a year are lost to stress, anxiety or depression in the UK.  As responsible businesses, we need to value our employees and create a sustainable future built on a fairer society.”


An economic perspective was provided at the event by Barry Naisbitt, Chief Economist at Santander. “The pace of economic expansion slowed in the first quarter of this year” observed Barry. “With rising inflation now hitting households’ real earnings growth, consumer spending growth looks set to slow over the coming year.  A key issue for the economy will be whether companies will increase their investment spending and exports and so help to maintain the close to 2% pace that overall growth has had in recent years.”


Compered by Alastair Fee, Business Correspondent, BBC South, the conference also included panellists:


Steve Frampton, Principal, Portsmouth College

Neil Fedden, Managing Director, Fedden USP

Dawn Baxendale, Chief Executive, Southampton City Council

Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor, Southampton Solent University

Click here to see photos from the day


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