Business and community leaders come together as one city to plan Bristol's economic recovery

James Durie
Chief Executive - Bristol Chamber & Initiative | Business West
14th May 2020

Eighty companies and employers from across the Bristol economy have come together to develop a plan and prospectus for recovery post coronavirus.

The gathering which took place on Tuesday this week via Zoom was the second of two workshop sessions organised by the Bristol One City Economy Board with support & leadership from the Chamber of Commerce & Initiative at Business West and Bristol City Council as the lockdown enters its eighth week.

The attendees which represented a wide range of organisations from across the cities industries including retail, education, tourism, creative & tech, culture, media, low carbon, aerospace, transport and financial & professional services were asked to consider; how the city should tackle the recovery and rebuild, the main challenges they currently face through COVID-19, what would enable recovery and how could their business sectors rebuild better.

The meeting came after the recently published Business West survey which showed that only 16% of businesses would be able to cope if coronavirus crisis lasted 6 months and the city council’s own survey showing that 65 % of the 1,100 businesses who responded had closed temporarily. Given the scale of the challenge to our economy and to the wellbeing of the city this work is moving at some pace.

James Durie Chief Executive of the Chambers of Commerce at Business West co-chairs the One City Economy Board with Deputy Mayor of Bristol Councillor Craig Cheney. 

James commented after the meeting:

“Whilst this is of course a time of huge challenge for all employers we have businesses and partners here in Bristol who are also seeing the recovery out of COVID-19 as a great opportunity, and have shared a determination to rebuild our city, and reshape our economy in a truly sustainable way around people, planet and profit. This will give us a competitive environment for business, more in tune with the commercial needs of business to trade and compete locally, nationally and globally, but also much more aligned with the needs of our natural environment and our population.

“Our natural environment is one of the key themes and assets we are seeking to develop and enhance. 

“Through the lockdown in Bristol, we are seeing the benefits of clean air and there is now a real feeling among business that we want to go ‘back to better’ - not back to what was the norm.

“There is a big determination for us in the One City partnership, which Bristol Chamber & Initiative Business West are central members, to make Bristol a much more inclusive place with an economy more in tune with its natural environment.

“We have a very engaged business community who are proactively trying to help energise this city and its wider region. We have been able to achieve so much over the decades by working together in partnership and the work we have all been doing over the past few years to develop a shared and long term approach – the One City Approach - means we are already ready to go to work together on this.”

The Economy Board, which has been meeting weekly, is taking a lead on developing this recovery plan and a prospectus and framework for Bristol by mid-June in line with the Bristol Mayor’s One City Vision and as both components and contributions to the work which is about to start at the West of England level, driven by the Combined Authority (WECA), with neighbouring councils and at the emerging Western Gateway Partnership – the new public and private sub national and cross border approach chaired by national business leader and Airbus UK Executive Katherine Bennett.

“We want this prospectus to have one or two breakthrough ‘shovel ready’ major intervention projects and programmes to show central government that Bristol as the dynamic economic melting pot that is, is aiming very high, ready to go and means business after Covid”, commented James Durie.

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