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Strong foundations enable us to be agile and creative

Nicholas Mann, chair of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, says that business has become more resilient over the past 12 months and can look forward to 2022 as the start of a positive new era.

Nicholas Mann: The overwhelming vote to renew the MyMiltonKeynes Business Improvement District for a further five years and the bid by Milton Keynes for city status to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year make the headlines but the achievement of its SMEs is underpinning the Milton Keynes economy.

IF 2020 TAUGHT us anything, it is that the ways in which we work, how we focus on the people around us and how we support wellbeing and inclusion can enrich the lives of our peers and inspire us to create greater, long-lasting connections with others. 

These lessons underpinned our resolve at the start of this year and, after another year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that we reflect and appreciate the triumphs and success stories of Milton Keynes and its business community in 2021. 

I believe that businesses within our region have developed even stronger foundations over the last 21 months which has enabled us to become more agile and creative as a result, leading to an abundance of achievements.

Over the last few months alone, this has been demonstrated with two major feats for Milton Keynes – the submission of the city status bid document and the MyMiltonKeynes BID win, representing a further £5 million investment for improvements to Central Milton Keynes. 

The latter saw an overwhelming majority vote by CMK businesses to renew the Business Improvement District. Under the direction of its chief executive Melanie Beck, the BID has now set out its ambitions for the next five years which will sustain and build upon the huge success of its first term. 

The bid for city status is testament to our shared belief that Milton Keynes is highly worthy of this official civic honour.

Set apart, these are both momentous achievements. But what about the smaller businesses which make up our thriving community? As a pioneering town which has inherently pushed the boundaries since its conception, Milton Keynes thrives upon its position as one of the UK’s fastest growing towns, with our new business success stories and entrepreneurial spirit. 

While larger firms continue to invest and move their headquarters to Milton Keynes under the glare of both the national and international business press, it is these smaller businesses which are increasingly becoming interwoven into the rich tapestry of our aspiring city.  

Through Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, the spotlight has indeed been shone upon these smaller companies, testament to my belief that the pandemic has sharpened our focus on others is how MKBLP members have championed the SMEs and entrepreneurs within our midst.

Sharing good news, offering support, providing advice  and applauding success has shaped and fortified our network this year which, I am delighted to say, has swelled in numbers.     

Moving from virtual to in-person events in the latter part of the year has been met with renewed vigour as people seek out connections forged over WhatsApp and Zoom. And the reboot of our sought-after dinners has seen the attendance of Angela Essel, head of the Joint Security and Resilience Centre Sir Dermot Turing and, in the New Year, Lord Digby Jones. 

Sparking discussions on a range of topics from technology, creating greater diversity and breaking the gender divide within STEM professions, the calibre of these speakers is demonstrative of the pull of the Milton Keynes business community.

While new variants and tougher restrictions may divert our course into 2022, I am confident that, as a community, we will enter the New Year with strengthened resolve once again, buoyed by our collective successes. 

And, almost two years since they last took place, we look forward to applauding these achievements, in person, at the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards in March. 

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