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Doncaster Business Conference Sparks Candid and Optimistic Debate About the Future of Our City

Business leaders, prominent entrepreneurs, major investors, politicians and other influential figures all gathered together this week, for a forward-thinking discussion about their aspirations for Doncaster and how they can ultimately be fulfilled.

Organised by the local Chamber of Commerce, the Doncaster, What’s Next? Business Conference took place at the Legacy Centre on Tuesday the 6th of June. Here, delegates were invited to join a candid, yet still optimistic, conversation about our region’s fortunes, and what can be done to help get South Yorkshire back on track after a string of gruelling setbacks.

The event saw a number of high-profile speakers and expert panellists all sharing insights from their respective fields and thrashing out the key issues of the day.

In terms of political representatives, guests were granted an audience with Nick Fletcher, MP for Don Valley, and had an opportunity to pose questions directly to the politician himself. A similar Q&A session was also held with Ros Jones CBE, Mayor of Doncaster, who spoke frankly and openly about where she believes our city is heading, as well as her ambitions for the future.

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) had a significant presence at the conference too, with the network’s Director General, Shevaun Haviland, and its President, Baroness Martha Lane-Fox CBE, both taking to the stage to deliver rousing keynote speeches.

Boasting impressive and high profile careers, these distinguished guests had valuable perspectives to share with the room. They stressed the need for a strong relationship between government and businesses, the importance of embracing change —  which was noted to be an especially pertinent theme right now, given the rise of A.I. and generative technologies — and the ways in which we can grow our economy. Again, they also fielded questions from the crowd (of over 200 businesses) leading them to touch upon various other themes as well.

Finally, there were, of course, several panel discussions throughout the day — covering everything from how to attract additional investment into South Yorkshire, right through to nurturing the next generation of workers and creating a more business-friendly environment here in Doncaster.

Featuring the likes of Tom Grundy, CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles, Lindsey Glasby, Senior Vice Principal at Doncaster UTC, and So Him Fong, Managing Director of King Asia Foods, these debates each produced lively and thought-provoking dialogue.

Speaking about the conference and its anticipated outcomes, Dan Fell, Chief Exec of Doncaster Chamber, said: “This was a really inspiring event that showed just how invested our business community and partners are in ensuring that Doncaster fulfils its latent potential.

“It’s no secret that the last twelve months have been incredibly challenging for South Yorkshire — with the closure of our region’s prized airport, the loss of NCATI and our unfortunate near miss with the Great British Railways HQ competition — and I was pleased to see everyone addressing this difficult issue head on. Indeed, the conversation on Tuesday was characterised, above all else, by its candour, its transparency and its pragmatism.

“We know that things haven’t been going our way in Doncaster lately and that we’ve got to turn things around. I was heartened that those in the room appeared to be on the same page here and that we’re all willing to admit that Team Doncaster — including the Chamber as one of its stalwart members — has got to course correct soon.

“Having said that, the conference was far from a downbeat affair. On the contrary, I was struck by just how positive the atmosphere was, even in the face of all the hardships that we’ve had to endure.

“If nothing else, I’ve emerged from the experience with a greater appreciation for just how resilient and determined our community is. Our speakers each painted an optimistic vision of the future, attendees generated fantastic ideas about what we could do to make our city a better place for doing business and there was a real appetite for collaboration across the board.

“I am therefore anticipating a much brighter tomorrow here in Doncaster. We have come away with new ideas for improving the city centre, making the region a more attractive place for both investors and talent alike, the ways in which we engage with government, how skills planning can better meet the needs of employers, the levelling up agenda and much more.

“I look forward to seeing how all of this will turn into tangible action in the coming months. From the Chamber’s perspective, I am confident that we will certainly have lots of homework to be getting on with.

“When we polled the audience on whether or not they think Doncaster will be a better place to do business in 5 years’ time, 85% of those in the room said ‘yes’, sending a clear message that we are working towards a common goal and that we envision great prosperity in the future. Based on the conversations we had at this event, I can say that I share in that optimism.”

The 2023 iteration of the annual Doncaster, What’s Next? Business Conference took place on the 6th of June. The event was generously sponsored by London North Eastern Railway (LNER), Aalberts Integrated Piping Systems and Doncaster College.



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