Jane Forbes: My Year as Chair

Thursday, 28th June 2018

Guest blog by Jane Forbes, pro-manchester Chair

At pro-manchester’s Annual Dinner on Thursday 21st June, Jane Forbes delivered a fantastic speech outlining the highlights from her time as pro-manchester Chair. Here, Jane discusses her year as Chair, outlining the key points made in her speech last week…

It has been a real privilege serving as Chair of pro-manchester, a position that champions the important role that the financial, business and professional services sectors play in the Greater Manchester economy.

At the start of my year, I set out three goals for pro-manchester:

1) to promote the importance and value of our sector in delivering on the Greater Manchester Strategy;

2) to be the ‘voice for business’ for our newly elected Mayor and the Combined Authority; and

3) to extend the reach of our sector groups to generate and strengthen new business links for our membership.

It was at the start of my tenure, tha we saw the launch of the region’s Internationalisation Strategy, which sets out how Greater Manchester aims to achieve its long-term vision to become a top global city by 2035. The role of our business community in the implementation of this Strategy is critical, and pro-manchester is at the forefront of bringing this community together. We are linked with over 100,000 businesses across the North West, which makes pro-manchester the natural gateway to business in our region.

pro-manchester’s breadth of knowledge and collaborative approach means we are perfectly positioned to be the voice for business in Greater Manchester for our elected Mayor Andy Burnham. A highlight of this relationship was our dinner with the Mayor held at the PwC offices where I am a Partner. This covered topics ranging from the green economy, the homelessness challenge, infrastructure investment and the skills gap.

Mayor Andy made the point that we need to play our part in championing the region’s capabilities and making the case for increased autonomy and investment for our region, particularly with regards to skills and infrastructure.

pro-manchester has always strived to ensure it develops good working relationships with our civic leaders. This has strengthened under Andy Burnham’s first year in office and we continue to work with Andy, the Deputy Mayors, Chief Executives and Council Leaders of the Combined Authority.

We were delighted that a number of these individuals were guest speakers at our Economics Conference last October, the theme of which was the Economics of Greater Manchester – our speakers provided insights into the challenges of ensuring sustainable growth across the city region in light of the Brexit uncertainty.
As the first region in the UK to gain control over aspects of its economy, Greater Manchester has far more integrated power than anywhere else and in my view, there is a strong argument for further devolution, particularly within the area of skills where there is a clear opportunity to match the skills offer to local business and economic needs.

Companies choose to invest in Manchester because of the people that choose to live, work and study here. As local business leaders, we must ensure that we play our part in articulating our future workforce requirements and the key skills that we need to continue to grow.

With the ever-strengthening links between businesses and education institutions, we have a fantastic opportunity to identify and nurture tomorrow’s leaders. pro-manchester has played a critical role in pulling these educational institutions and businesses together through the activities of our Skills Committee, which I co-chair, along with the work of our sector groups.

The sector group programme has expanded this year, with hugely successful sold-out lunches covering the sports and hospitality, corporate finance, retail and e-commerce and property sectors.

As a result of this expansion, we were delighted to welcome Ilona Alcock into the team as Sector Group Manager – a new role for pro-manchester and one which is dedicated to driving forward our sector group programme.

We have also seen some fantastic additions to the pro-manchester team. As well as Ilona joining as Sector Group Manager, Mel Hill has joined us as Communications Manager and Katherine Barr as interim Membership and Engagement Manager, covering for Katie Robson, who had her own addition to the team in the form of a beautiful baby girl.

Of course, none of what we have achieved this year would have been possible without the pro-manchester team. I have seen first-hand, what an incredibly dedicated, talented and hard-working team we have, working to deliver over 150 events in the year, attended by over 5,000 delegates. They have been so much fun to work with and an incredible support. A huge thank you to Sam, Nicola, Claire, Katie, Isabel, Ilona, Mel, Katherine and of course to John.

You can’t help but feel proud to work in Manchester. Whether you are from here, or like me, you were drawn here, we have a collective ambition of driving the continued success of this great region and seeing our local businesses thrive. It’s what makes Manchester such a special place to live, to work and do business.

Hear from our new Chair, Alistair Cree on Thursday 12th July at our AGM Lunch. Alistair will be outlining his goals for the year ahead to pro-manchester members at Albert’s Chop House. To book tickets, click here.