I AM delighted that we seem to be starting the new year on a bullish note, despite the obvious challenges of Brexit.

Our latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) results, released last week, reflected a sense of positivity among the region’s employers.

It was particularly pleasing to see confidence in recruitment, with almost two thirds of companies aiming to increase recruitment of full-time staff. The overall workforce scores are at their highest since 2015.

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Spending on training has also improved and more firms propose to increase investment in plant and machinery than at any time since the middle of 2015.

This all reflects the tremendous hard work across so many of our regional businesses.

It really does give us a great starting point for 2018.

I am also very proud of our Stronger North-East campaign – our detailed action plan launched at the start of the year to enable our members, and the whole region, to become even more successful.

We will be campaigning for many actions from Government, including fair funding arrangements, further devolution, investment in key infrastructure and support for the region’s exporters.

The North-East is a great place to do business, but we have the capability to do so much more.

Our businesses have the assets and skills to make a greater contribution to the national economy, but need more investment in skills and infrastructure to unlock our full ability.

A Stronger North-East will help create an even more influential region with the power to make decisions about its own future.

It will also urge businesses and local authorities to work together to build a clear and consistent set of investment priorities.

As I mentioned at the start of this column, Brexit is an enormous challenge.

We will continue to champion the region’s heroic exporters.

It is vital we are provided with a positive trade deal with the EU.

We need much more support for new and existing exporters to grow our reputation as a global North- East.

Our businesses must be able to build on our unrivalled export track record and break into new international markets.

James Ramsbotham is chief executive at the North East England Chamber of Commerce