The new president of a business organisation celebrating its 125th anniversary said she hopes her term will be an opportunity for progress.
Sue Kramer is set to begin her two-year term at the helm of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce at its AGM tonight.
It will also mark the milestone anniversary with a celebration at Roosters taproom on Hornbeam Park, which Mrs Kramer said will be an opportunity to celebrate its long history.
Once the celebrations are over, Mrs Kramer is clear that her focus will be on the future. Her priorities include making more use of technology to keep businesses engaged and to canvas their views so they can be represented to local authorities.
“I’m looking forward to helping with working smart and being aware of moving with the times and keeping our finger on the pulse for everything.
“One thing I’m really aware of is that we have to bring about more sustainability. I want to embed sustainability into the chamber and its members. If we could all just do a little bit, it would help.”
Change can often be controversial in Harrogate – something Mrs Kramer, who runs a jewellery shop in the town centre with husband Stephen, knows only too well.
Proposals to reduce car use and encourage walking and cycling through changes in road layout, such as the £10.9m Station Gateway scheme, have drawn extensive criticism from retailers over recent months.
Mrs Kramer said it was tricky to strike a balance between the importance of having more environmentally friendly measures and the need to support struggling town centre businesses. However, she said, there was nothing wrong with sharing views and debating the merits of proposals in order to ensure the right solution was reached.
“I think when these things occur, they have got to be looked at calmly and rationally and then come up with valid points for and against.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all. They are all very important and have to be viewed on their own merits.
“I don’t see the point of antagonising people. We have all got one common goal for the benefit of Harrogate.
“We should all work together. We may not always agree, but we can put that across diplomatically.”
For Mrs Kramer, working for the benefit of Harrogate comes naturally. She moved here as a child and attended local schools, as have her two children, now in their 20s.
Her early career was in recruitment and she ran an agency, with large national firms among its clients. Now, having run Crown Jewellers with her husband for more than two decades, she feels she can bring the perspectives of different businesses to her term as chamber president, with support from an active management committee representing a wide range of sectors.
She is naturally a ‘do-er’: over the last few years, she has brought the shops on Commercial Street together to raise the area’s profile. She has persuaded the BID and Harrogate Borough Council to invest in improving the street too.
As the structure of local government changes over the coming year, Mrs Kramer says she will use her contacts and skills to ensure local businesses continue to have their voices heard.
“We will be building very strong relationships with North Yorkshire Council. Harrogate is going to need to step up and be very visible.
“We won’t be overlooked, but we have got to make sure we have got a strong voice.”
- Chocolate project seeks new business links to build on students’ growth
- New chief executive for Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce
- Harrogate College to host week of networking events for businesses
Unlike pure networking groups, the chamber often has the ear of decision-makers – its upcoming programme includes a visit from the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, and senior councillors and officers regularly share their plans with members at the monthly meetings.
As the difficulties of covid are gradually left behind, Mrs Kramer said there is a huge opportunity ahead for the 125-year-old chamber to evolve.
“It’s like spring: everything is shooting up and growing and coming back to life. It’s really exciting. Getting the members back to meetings is brilliant. We’ve got a good programme of meetings, relevant, informative and fun – we’re really moving forward.
“It’s a bit daunting [becoming president], but I’m really looking forward to it. Now we’re out of covid, there’s real scope to go a little bit further.”