The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been truly seismic not only in terms of its health and wellbeing implications, but on the fundamentals of our economy, on the relationship between the state and private enterprise and on the very attributes required for businesses to succeed.
In times of great turbulence, it is natural, perhaps, to focus only on the challenges – and there certainly have been many of those that we’ve all faced and are still facing. Yet, COVID-19 has also shown that in the face of adversity, companies and the people that work within them can come together to make a real difference to the place they do business.
British Chambers of Commerce alongside the local Chamber network, launched a campaign to recognise the incredible work UK businesses have been doing to support local communities, innovate and meet new demands during the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK Business Hero stamp was created to pay tribute to those businesses and individuals that have gone the extra mile and made a vital contribution in these difficult times.
It is with real pride the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce can announce that London Luton Airport, Vauxhall, Chiltern Academy, GKN Aerospace, Peli BioThermal, Community Interest Luton, Lockheed Martin, Silver Screen Services, Willow Tree Distilling Company, Jaltek Systems and Verifile all received the national accolade for demonstrating resilience, community spirt and a selfless approach to the challenges of the pandemic.
Truly inspiring stories
The pandemic saw UK Business Heroes use their resources in altruistic and inventive ways to step up and serve their communities in times of crisis, resulting in some truly inspiring stories – from London Luton Airport providing over 100 volunteers to help support local community organisations and donating surplus food items to homeless charities, to Chiltern Academy, who during lockdown made over 14,000 face visors that were distributed all over the country to frontline workers.
Many UK Business Heroes repurposed their equipment or staff to do everything they could in creating vital supplies for the NHS. A handpicked team of Vauxhall workers completed a 16-week assignment at Smiths Medical working as part of a consortium that helped to deliver 13,437 ventilators to the NHS. Some exceptional stories of adaptability and collaboration.
The companies also received royal recognition with a letter of congratulations from HRH Countess of Wessex GCVO, who supported the campaign.
In the letter, HRH The Countess of Wessex highlighted how it has given her great pride to hear how businesses have gone the extra mile to help during the coronavirus pandemic and stated: “It has been a particular pleasure to hear stories of how you have supported your local communities throughout the outbreak and to see you nominated as UK Business Heroes by your local Chamber of Commerce. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your positive contributions, congratulate you on your recognition as a UK Business Hero and wish you every success in your endeavours in the weeks and months ahead as we look to the recovery of our country.”
An optimistic future
It is hard to predict what this year will truly look like. These are undeniably challenging times for many businesses across the county but the resilience we saw in 2020 shows we are well placed to take full advantage of new opportunities.
Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce is devoting its resources and expertise to working with a range of local and national partners on schemes aimed at supporting local businesses navigate uncertain times and adapt to new conditions. These include ChamberCustoms® to help businesses keep trading now the transition period has passed and working with long-term partners Wenta in collaboration with members to deliver free business support to the network.
We have also been given the green light to become a gateway for the government-backed Kickstart Scheme – designed to help support young people who are struggling to get onto the jobs market. Demand, even in difficult times, has proved there are reasons to be optimistic and we are already working with 100 companies looking to provide 200-plus job placements.
In short, 2020 was quite a year and there are further challenges to overcome but by working together I’m confident we can help deliver sustainable and inclusive growth for Bedfordshire.
Find out more about Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce