ONE of the key roles of the Chamber is to campaign for the changes and investment needed to ensure our region’s businesses can be as successful as possible.

JOHN McCabe is president of North East England Chamber of Commerce

We use our quarterly economic survey to feed into this process and back our demands, on behalf of the North-East business community with cold, hard facts. The questions cover all aspects of business conditions to ensure we have an excellent grasp of everything from wage costs to future concerns.

The results for our region were released on Monday, January 7, and highlighted opportunities for growth, but also some serious concerns.

There was some welcome relief from the worrying data we saw throughout the first three quarters of 2018, with business performance and confidence improving somewhat towards the end of the year.

Growth in domestic sales and a rebound in exports are the main contributors to this, with scores for both indicators well ahead of where they were three months ago.

However, there are interesting details and discrepancies behind these headlines. Our service sector exporters have fared better than manufacturers, while growth in workforce has fallen back from what we were seeing this time last year.

Last quarter I cautioned against getting carried away with negative results and the same is true for this set of more positive data.

It is clear from individual responses that large numbers of businesses are wary of turmoil in the political and economic climate. Brexit remains the most frequently cited business concern and we are steadfast in our view that a chaotic, no-deal scenario is not an acceptable outcome.

This month also sees the launch of the Chamber’s 2019 Stronger North East campaign. Like the QES this work’s focus is on campaigning for the right political decisions that support a more productive, more resilient and more inclusive regional economy.

Over the past 12 months we have supported transport investment proposals, encouraged business development and connected many of our members with like-minded companies to support our regional growth.

There are many success stories all around the North-East such as the exciting developments in Durham’s city centre and Sirius Minerals ambitious business.

Here’s to more of this innovative and pioneering thinking and activity over the next 12 months.

All the best to you for 2019.