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Doncaster Chamber President Address at Business Awards 2018

Michael Wilkinson, President of Doncaster Chamber, Frog Education, addressed over 800 guests at the Doncaster Business Awards 2018.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Mike Wilkinson and I have the great privilege to serve Doncaster Chamber as its president.

It’s my great honour to welcome you all here tonight for the 2018 Doncaster Chamber Business Awards.

Well it’s been a year for shouting at the tele!!!!

There’s no escaping the major political backdrop this year.

There has been plenty of reporting on who's in, who's out and what aspects of trade and travel will be affected.

No, not Theresa May's deal with the European Union, I’m talking about Love Island 2018.

The girls….had a pretty serious chat about Brexit didn’t they?!!!
About as informed a debate as much of what we have seen played out in the press
…and with less self interest and shameful squabbling than we are seeing in Westminster right now.

And the boys on the island brought some light relief with their take on the Yorkshire devolution debate, flying the flag for a Yorkshire deal

  • clearly having seen the independent economic report on the rationale
  • and resonating with Doncaster who polled both it’s business and public on the matter

But in all seriousness, through Brexit and devolution, the business landscape is changing forever. It’s too early to predict what this will mean for many of us, but one thing is for sure, unprecedented levels of change lay ahead.

However, in spite of what’s to come and whatever it may bring, I firmly believe, its businesses that trade, not Governments
…And that’s what’s been on the agenda for Doncaster Chamber and Doncaster Businesses.

Indeed, tonight we have come together to celebrate the growth and success of Doncaster’s businesses, in spite of the political backdrop.

Doncaster is a place that is used to change. We are a place that gets stuff done, and a place that has defined itself by opportunity.

Just look at the significant transformation in recent years, with massive projects delivered such as:

  • The Airport
  • YWP
  • the iPort
  • Cast
  • Great Yorkshire Way
  • and most proudly for me, the University Technical College spearheaded by the Chamber, Hungerhill School and supported by many businesses in this room.


Through consultation, lobbying, training, and community engagement, Doncaster Chamber is at the heart of all of it.

I should take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank partners, in Team Doncaster and DMBC, who, in spite of seemingly perennial austerity, continue to invest and foster a pro-business environment for Doncaster.

That’s not to say there isn’t work to be done.

Success brings new challenges, and firms are finding it ever harder to access skilled staff.
…That’s why the Chamber has made skills its top priority:

  • successfully leading the bid for the UTC
    …despite 4 years of procrastination from the DfE.
  • And developing the Skills Academy our vehicle to:
    o raise aspirations
    o develop work readiness
    o promote enterprise


Crucially, this programme has been developed in Doncaster, not Whitehall and is anchored in the needs of local industry.

But as national policy drills its way into Doncaster, it’s critical we protect this locally focussed skills and careers support for the long term.

As such, the Chamber, DMBC and the Opportunity Area Board have jointly invested to create a new organisation to carry forward this great work and ensure sustainability.

This is what’s needed to keep up the good outcomes we have been seeing from the Skills Academy – particularly as Brexit will create new headaches in an already challenging labour market.

We’d therefore like to encourage all businesses present to get involved and I’d like to express my thanks to the members and patrons that give their time and money to support it.

Another key area to address for Doncaster is the issue of anti-social behaviour and homelessness.

This is having a significant impact on businesses, customers and the reputation of Doncaster itself.

Yes, this is a national problem, however, if Doncaster can outperform national economic growth, what’s stopping us doing the same to help our most challenged citizens?

As a business community, we need to be part of the solution and not just point at the problem.

As such, for my charitable donations from the awards this year, I have chosen to donate to two amazing charities:

  • Riverside who help to transform lives and revitalise neighbourhoods.
  • Changing Lives supports vulnerable people and families to make positive and lasting changes towards a fulfilling life.


Between these two organisations, working alongside key Doncaster partners, we really can help to transform lives, so please give generously in the raffle.

We have often heard, and indeed words I have used myself, “when business succeeds, everyone succeeds”

Let’s make sure this rings true for everyone.

As we head into 2019, we should all carry forward a strong sense of optimism.

Great things are happening in Doncaster:

  • From 360 degree media and the transformation at High Melton
  • European Tour Golf Course
  • the Tour de Yorkshire
  • the expansion of Yorkshire Wildlife Park
  • growing momentum for a rail link at Doncaster Sheffield Airport
  • The new library and museum
  • the Town Centre masterplan which will transform our place
  • alongside laying the foundations for the 2020 City of Culture.


Clearly Doncaster is a Place that gets stuff done.

What better place than Doncaster is there to work, live and play

I’d like to sum up with a few words of thanks.

I would like to thank our Headline Sponsor Doncaster College & University Centre ….who’s contribution helps ensure the Doncaster Chamber Business Awards remain the biggest and best in the country.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber and his staff for the amazing work they do to represent the interests of Doncaster and its businesses

They truly embrace our vision of being the best Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

Tonight is a testament to their hard work and their sense of Civic pride.

Thank you to all the businesses here tonight, who give us cause to celebrate the amazing achievements happening here in Doncaster.

I wish all of you the very best of luck in the awards tonight.

Finally, I’d like to thank you all for your attendance and attention.

Doncaster really is a great place to work, live and play.
Make sure you do plenty of the latter tonight!

Thank you



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