A personal observation of 2013 by Keith Williams, Vice Chairman, Brixham Chamber of Commerce.

As we enter a new year, I believe we can look back at 2013 and say this was the year BCC had a major makeover.

The foundations for change were already laid in 2012 with Denise at the helm, and we have carried forward many of the ideas and made them a reality. The Chamber now has a strong and enthusiastic team with a vast array of individual skills covering many areas of commerce.

We start the 2014 with an executive committee with their own best suited, individual roles and responsibilities within the Chamber. The decision to do this means each member is now able to give more time in areas in which they have the most experience.

Joe Cloutman retired this year from our exec committee. Joe has made an inspirational contribution to the chamber and Brixham. We wish him well. Of course he remains an active member ….so I will still be picking your brains Joe…no escape. We are however still one key member short of course, with Denise our Chairlady out of action. Denise is making a steady recovery and I know the entire membership send her their best wishes and look forward to welcoming her back in due course.

In the last year Chamber membership has been growing month on month. The income from membership subscriptions together with that from commercial ventures, such as the Arts and Crafts Market and Sunday Market, has meant we have been able to help fund a range of community-led projects in the town. Pride in Brixham, the Pirate Festival, Brixfest, The Lantern Parade and of course the Park & Ride are among some of the events/projects to which the Chamber has made an active/financial contribution.

I am sure that that we can expand upon this during 2014. Increasing membership will help, and there has never been a better time for Brixham businesses to get on board.

We have also invested in a state of the art website and news update service, vital if we are to communicate effectively at all levels and be considered a professional organisation. Our links and representation with council, tourism and bodies such as ERTC and the TDA have all been strengthened in 2013.

The Chamber now has a strong voice, and most importantly, the will to make positive changes and see them through.

In 2014/15 Brixham’s economic infrastructure faces possibly its greatest challenge ever.   As the work on our town centre begins we have an enormous task ahead in retaining sufficient footfall to sustain a viable level of trade, particularly in the retail sector.

This is already work in progress for the Chamber. We are in talks with those involved but there is still much to do. The need to form a constructive dialogue and understanding with all parties is imperative if solutions are to be achieved.

Cuts in the Tourism budget mean that the Chamber will need to play an even more active role in promoting the town.

We must decide also whether to re-visit the BID and determine its benefits.

As Kingskerswell bypass nears completion, Torbay will become logistically more attractive as a business investment area. This is a golden opportunity for the Chamber to sell Brixham as an outstanding area for investment, seeking to improve local employment prospects.

Thanks to EVERY member in the executive committee, we are now preparing confidently for the challenges of 2014 and beyond.

Wishing all a Happy Healthy & Prosperous New Year.