The Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield is to get a powerful new voice for its 3,000 businesses – its own Chamber of Commerce.
The new organisation, under the umbrella of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), will be based at the Business Improvement District (BID) offices near the Gracechurch Centre.
The chamber will lobby on behalf of Sutton businesses for new inward investment, extra broadband and road improvements as part of a wide-ranging remit.
Mike Bushell, who has been the BID manager in the town since January 2012 , said there were 3,000 active businesses in Sutton, operating in a mixed economy in the town centre and outlying areas, including Boldmere, New Oscott, Wylde Green, Walmley, Four Oaks, Mere Green and Minworth.
Mr Bushell said the BID, which operates solely in the town centre, had received ‘clear feedback’ from the local business community that there was great interest in networking, adding: “This is an obvious reason for joining a chamber.”
He said there were also issues specific to Sutton where the town needed to be represented, such as infrastructure, and in particular the much needed relief road, which was first mooted some years ago.
“There is also a need for inward investment – there are empty offices, and the BID also had to take action to get broadband into parts of the town, in order to attract businesses.
“As a BID, we have recognised that a chamber within a major chamber like Birmingham would do a lot to represent businesses in the town. As a BID, we will be giving levy payers the opportunity to become chamber members for free for the first year.”
BID chairman Andy Jackson, manager of the Gracechurch Centre, said: “The catalyst for this was to develop a closer working partnership with the wider Birmingham area and at the same time have a stronger representation for Sutton businesses.
“We felt we would be best represented by linking up with like-minded people, as the priorities and goals of Birmingham chamber clearly match ours – it felt like a natural progression.
“We have good links with the chamber already and want to develop that. Having worked with the chamber as a retailer, I can see the benefits of belonging to such an organisation – it will open doors and opportunities.”
GBCC business services director Russell Jeans said: “This seemed a natural move to bring Sutton Coldfield fully into business support services available throughout the Greater Birmingham region. It will be dedicated to representing the business interests of Sutton Coldfield and introducing a business support programme that will help create jobs and growth.”
In 1974, Sutton Coldfield became part of Birmingham, despite some objections from local residents, when the metropolitan county of the West Midlands was formed.
More recently, the town centre has undergone various improvements, including pedestrianisation. In addition, the Gracechurch shopping centre, built in 1974 and at the heart of retailing in Sutton, has also been the subject of investment by its owners.