Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Business West are coming together to drive a pioneering collaboration.

Chamber Online is a shared platform that will harness and share national and global opportunities for business across our member networks. Between us, we’ve got an extensive network representing businesses of all shapes and sizes across three of the strongest economic regions in the UK.

Strength in numbers

Ours are heavy weight metro regions that make up a significant proportion of the UK’s collective business might. Together the three chamber regions cover a combined GVA of almost £500 billion – that’s almost a third of the UK’s total GVA of £1.6 trillion (according to ONS data, 2015).

In total, there are 613,000 businesses across our three metro regions and almost seven million economically active people (ONS data, 2016). The three chambers represent almost 8,000 businesses - a significant and influential voice.

Justifying our collaboration doesn’t just come down to the volume of businesses that our regions speak for or the significant contribution these businesses make to the overall UK GVA, equally important is connectivity or influence in certain sectors.

Consider aviation. Five of the UK’s ten busiest airports by passenger traffic are based in our regions. Of the 209,976,371 total passengers across these ten airports, 176,393,663 passenger movements were at airports within our patch (according to CAA Airport Data, 2016), that’s 84% of all passenger movements within our regions. Our members’ views on aviation really should carry weight with the policy makers and those negotiating on Britain’s ongoing participation the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA).

With key industries such as the financial and professional services sector our three regions similarly lend a lot of clout. 873,000 people are employed within this sector across the regions covered by the Greater Manchester, London and Business West chambers – that’s 40% of everyone working within financial and professional services across the whole of the UK ( data). From our conversations with banks, accountancy firms and those in the legal profession, we know that the regional impact arising from Brexit isn’t being prioritised by the national business organisations such as CBI or the FSB. Chambers Online is well placed to articulate the industry view point from a multi-regional perspective.

What about other chambers?

There’s no doubt opportunity for other chambers representing other UK, European or even global regions to join forces with us. A likeminded outlook was our starting point and as key metro Chambers positioned at the heart of vibrant, innovative and entrepreneurial business communities in the UK, we passionately believe the future for our business network lies in aligning our local strengths to champion crucial business issues and create access to wider opportunities.

We’re putting geographical differences aside. We have more in common than we have reason to compete with each other. Our members stand to gain from stronger representation on key issues like Brexit or funding for transport infrastructure regardless of whether their headquarters are in Salford, Swindon or Soho.

Business isn’t defined by location

For decades, chambers have successfully connected our members in person at a local level. It is undoubtedly the core strength of a chamber of commerce. Those grassroots connections from which business introductions are made, that facilitate networking and that share priorities and issues.

Cavendish Nuclear this year opened an office in Warrington’s Birchwood Business Park and takes great value from the local business cluster of nuclear engineering, research, training and project delivery expertise. Its Bristol location and membership of Business West is crucially important to the company’s involvement in Hinkley Point C. They’re looking for joined up representation in Greater Manchester and Bristol with a strong business voice to support their own objectives and the priorities for the nuclear industry.

The local network is valuable, but we see incredible opportunity to build on this, to harness the power of a collaborative Chamber network - connecting businesses of all sizes and sectors across different Chambers. That also gives rise to a range of diverse experiences and opinions on a large number of business issues and also allows us to tap into what businesses are really thinking at a time when genuine and accurate evidence and input is in short supply.