Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce president Richard Graham delivered the following President’s Report at the Chamber’s AGM earlier this evening.
Welcome to the Annual General Meeting of the Cranleigh & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.
It’s hard believe that a whole year has past since I was joined in my new post by a largely new Chamber Committee and we started making plans for the year ahead.
First and foremost we set an ambitious target to grow membership from the 60 we inherited to 100 and I am pleased to report that we have eclipsed that total and now have a membership of over 120.
To help do this we revised the fees, removed the historic joining fee and simplified the annual membership subscription, starting at £50 a year for businesses with up to 5 employees, which is tremendous value.
We quickly launched a new Chamber website of which we are very proud; it is the ‘one stop shop’ for all things Chamber.
We wanted to make sure we delivered something extra to existing and new members alike and identified that the networking and topic-based presentations could be built upon. We have significantly increased attendance at these meetings and are now reaching capacity in some venues.
We held seven breakfast meetings with diverse and pertinent topics including: getting business from Social Media, building a successful media profile, and delivering better customer service. I must thank all our speakers who gave us their time for free and, without exception, allowed us all to learn something new.
Our social event in the summer was a BBQ held at the Richard Onslow when Chamber members also gave generously, raising £260 towards the cost of the Christmas Lights.
We have led a project for Waverley Borough Council to adopt a new and highly flexible way of paying for car parking at both High Street car parks. The ability to pay on exit will alleviate the time pressure placed on visitors to the High Street, Medical Practice and Leisure Centre.
We submitted a successful objection to the outline planning application for replacement of light industrial capacity with housing at Hewitt’s Industrial Estate. We will continue to push to preserve and grow the allocation of employment land in Cranleigh.
The Chamber successfully lobbied O2 and Vodafone to improve mobile phone coverage in Cranleigh, with the introduction of 4G high speed mobile Internet.
We have taken responsibility for the Cranleigh in Bloom initiative.
We hosted a meeting for Chamber members with our local MP, Anne Milton, with Anne answering questions from the audience on a wide range of subjects affecting business and the community.
Assurances were obtained directly from Thames Water that a future upgrade to the water main in Cranleigh would not result in disruption to the High Street.
In October we hosted the inaugural Cranleigh Food & Music Festival in partnership with Cranleigh Arts Centre, raising over £1,000 for their Target 25 Campaign. Its popularity means that this will become an annual festival.
We built on the hard work of previous Chamber committees by continuing to organise the Cranleigh Christmas Lights and Switch-On Event, with special guest Kenney Jones and a packed programme of live entertainment throughout the evening.
One of our biggest and most successful initiatives was the inaugural Cranleigh & District Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) Awards 2016, awarding prizes of £4,000 to the winner and runner-up and hosting a fully booked awards evening at Cranleigh Arts Centre.
We organized a presentation, kindly hosted by Dunsfold Park for Chamber members to hear about their plans for development of the aerodrome.
We visited the Arts Centre to host a networking event for International Women’s Day, with a panel of speakers representing women in different stages of business growth.
We have just launched ‘Up Your Game!’, a village-wide customer service initiative with the support of Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council.
And finally, we have generated more than 40 press articles and comments thereby increasing our profile and allowing the ‘business voice’ to be heard.
Quite a busy year then! And there will be no let up.
The coming year sees us keen to reach a membership total of 150, we’ll be building on our key events: Cranleigh in Bloom, the Food & Music Festival, the BIG Awards and the Christmas Lights Switch on and there is already an exciting list of networking events in place for the coming year.
We will continue to work in any way we can to support and promote business in Cranleigh, and to ensure we do all we can to support our community.
We have had the privilege of working with our local councils, councillors, community groups and charities and we thank them all for their help and support.
In particular I would like to thank Alan Young and through him Surrey County Council together with Kary Backhouse and her team at Cranleigh Arts Centre.
Of course none of this happens without a huge amount of hard work and dedication by the Committee and, on behalf of the membership, I must thank Bob Bayley, Martin Bamford, Rosemary French, Roger Coupe, Julie Alexandersen, Guy Sansom, Christine Martin, David Smith and John Taylor for their phenomenal input.
It is impossible to convey how grateful I am personally to this Committee, they are, without doubt, the dream team! All of these people lead very busy lives without the imposition of Chamber duties and the list of this year’s achievements is a real credit to them.