THE President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce has highlighted to a key business and political audience the opportunities and challenges facing the city as it emerges from the global pandemic.

Victoria Wainwright, Managing Partner of Naylor Wintersgill Chartered Accountants, paid tribute to the way businesses continued to operate since March 2020 and other organisations, such as Bradford Council, rallied to the keep the local and regional economy afloat.

Speaking at the Bradford Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, at the Midland Hotel, Victoria slated, to loud applause, the Government decision to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail and the eastern leg of HS2, and called on the region’s politicians to pull out all the stops to make sure "levelling up" reaches Bradford and West Yorkshire.

At last night's dinner, sponsored by Exa Networks, Bradford Grammar School, Metro Bank and AKA Global Power, the President highlighted the chamber's support for manufacturing, the property sector and BAME businesses, and its projects such as Raising the Bar which rewards business acting responsibly and engaging in community projects.

Said Victoria: "Our Property Forum has been liaising with those behind the Bradford Live project, which is on target to complete next year, bringing further investment into the city. The Property Forum is also working with key Council officers, for example, in planning, housing and transport, to help realise projects such as the Transforming Cities Fund, that will re-shape the city centre and key arterial highways, and meet the housing need through the formalisation of the Local Plan."

She also praised the Bradford 2025 team in getting the city long-listed for the UK City of Culture competition: "It is becoming more widely recognised that such a status enables cities to bring in millions more in inward investment and visitors, and enhance and enrich their profile and reputation in a way not previously acknowledged.

"All of you already know about the rich culture and heritage we have here, but many others can have their perceptions of Bradford changed if we were to win. Bradford 2025 has the full support of the Chamber as a Bid Partner and I urge all businesses to back the bid any way they can."

Victoria thanked the Chamber's Chief Executive Sandy Needham, who plans to retire in March 2022: "I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Sandy for her excellent leadership and achievements on behalf of the Chamber and for also being a fantastic role model to many aspiring female leaders."

Guest speaker, TV presenter Steph McGovern, who was awarded the title Young Engineer for Britain aged 19, talked about her career in television and as a business journalist, and praised Bradford Manufacturing Week for introducing schoolchildren to industry. She said: "When I was at school we were taken out to industries like ICI. It gave us a real sense of the world of work, and I knew at 13 I wanted to be an engineer."

Victoria thanked her predecessor Suzanne Watson for handling the Chamber leadership role through Covid. Suzanne, managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR, looked back to the 2019 Chamber dinner when she spoke of a "confident, changing and evolving Bradford".

"Three months later, we had a rate of change and evolution thrust upon us that we never could have imagined or seen coming. And while, thanks to Covid, our confidence may have at times, taken a bruising, we are as a business community learning, every day, how to live with a pandemic which has impacted every single one of our lives and businesses," she said.

"As president during the pandemic, I saw firsthand how this Chamber pulled out every stop to adapt, respond, question, research and represent its members. The spirit of resilience and collaboration was at levels none of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

And while businesses were adapting and the council was working tirelessly to process and channel the grants and additional support, the Chamber continued to support and represent members not only locally, but regionally and nationally too."