Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry has entered a new era, electing its first female president alongside its first Asian vice president.
Businesswoman Bridget Blow was named as president, replacing construction chief Rod Ackrill, whose building company Chase Norton collapsed earlier this year.
Property entrepreneur Paul Bassi was named vice president, with another vice-president yet to be elected.
After being elected, Ms Blow pledged to promote the Birmingham business community’s interests at local and national levels, particularly in the light of the current financial markets crisis.
She said the current financial markets problems and the knock-on consequences made the work of the Chamber even more vital, adding: “It is clear that businesses at the moment need as much help as possible to get through the global downturn.
“We are continuing to work hard to ensure the Government does not panic into short-term measures that may well damage our long-term strategy.
“We are helping the region form an economic taskforce which will meet frequently to assess the situation.
“Many businesses are taking up our advice to seek new markets and products overseas and this has improved the fortunes of manufacturers, who are holding up strongest at the moment. We learned many lessons during the MG Rover crisis and they are now being put to good use today.”
Ms Blow is chairwoman of consumer electronics firm Alba, a non-executive director of the Coventry Building Society and Birmingham Hippodrome, and a council member of the University of Birmingham.
She was previously Chief Executive of ITNET from 1994-2005.
She has a background in IT management and was a non-executive director of the Bank of England from 2000-2005.
Ms Blow said it was a time of “considerable transition” for the Chamber, given the global financial conditions, saying: “I’m also keen to see us promote our work in improving business life in the city and I’m delighted that the Chamber’s policy work is doing so well. I particularly want us to stress to government the importance of concentrating on the basics.”
And the potential for councils to raise a local supplement on business rates could be a major issue, she added, saying: “If businesses are going to be taxed it’s important to know who will decide what it should be spent on. If the tax is returned to local councils then business must be consulted on how the money is spent.”
The new president said she would prefer to work with the Government to create designated business improvement zones to promote industry rather than leave it to local authorities.
She said this would regenerate the local economy whilst also giving a much-needed boost to the property and construction industry.