Cutler's Hall
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Growth means changes, says NEXT boss and Cobra Beer founder at Chamber dinner

Sheffield’s business elite were given an inspirational talk by two of the country’s top leaders at the Chamber President’s dinner.

Lord Wolfson, chief executive of retail giant the NEXT Group, and Lord Bilimoria, founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, spoke in front of more than 300 guests at the prestigious event at the Cutlers’ Hall in Sheffield.

Talking about the need for change and to embrace the new, Lord Wolfson said: “For living standards to rise, we need growth in the real economy. Growth doesn’t happen on paper, it happens in the real world and it means change, it is tangible, you can see it, feel it.

“But there remains a large part of Britain’s establishment that is profoundly anti-growth. The knee-jerk reaction to development and change is ‘No’. Of course, no planner, politician or protest group think of themselves as anti-growth - but the effect of their pessimism is to impede, slow or simply kill economic growth.

“But if change is to happen we must be optimistic about what our age can achieve, worry a little less about preserving the past and a little more about creating our own contribution to Britain’s great heritage.

“We should strive, so that one day people will look back at the buildings of our age and be as proud of them as they are of the achievements of our Victorian and Georgian ancestors.

“Here in Sheffield there is an enormous opportunity to re-vitalise the city centre and I am excited about the prospects for the commercial heartland of this great city. We may have had our disagreements with the City Council, but that is now firmly in the past and Next will be the first to support the Council in its challenge of rebuilding a great and thriving city centre in Sheffield.”

Lord Bilimoria added: “We are a country of proud manufacturers, but over the past decades we have neglected the economy and allowed it to become unbalanced. Past Governments have been negligent in this.

“This country is capable of a lot. We have the best high-end manufacturing, the best architects, designers, lawyers, accountants, advertising, finance and some of the world’s top universities.

“We have to get behind the country and with confidence we can really go forward. Look at what we’ve done already. We have some great institutions and a solid base that other countries just can’t replicate. But we need to look at our capability, look at our heritage and look forward to the future. We must aspire and achieve against all odds and do so with integrity.”

The event, which celebrated Jon Stewart’s year as President of the Sheffield Chamber, showcased the city’s manufacturing expertise, particular its growing reputation within the real ale industry.

Mr Stewart, a director at Siemens Metals Technologies, said: “This was a great event, not just for the Chamber, but for Sheffield. This is a formidable city with a vibrant business community. If we work together the potential is limitless, but we have to do things differently in order to move forward.

“We need real investment in manufacturing and industry in the region, we have a proud industrial heritage and we must bolster that with growing our skills, research and development base.

“I am pleased that we are moving in the right direction, and it’s good to see that rebalancing is happening already – but now we must ensure we accelerate this commitment to greater industrial growth in Sheffield.”

Elevation Recruitment, Sheffield College and British Land were the key sponsors for the dinner.

Fundraising on the evening raised more than £2,000 for the Chamber’s current charity of the Year, Sheffield Young Carers which provides support to eight-21 year olds who are caring for someone at home. The donation took the total amount raised for the charity during the last 12 months to more than £7,000.

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