GARY HUTCHINSON: Gentoo bombshell is reminder of how fragile recovery is

Gary Hutchinson.
Gary Hutchinson.
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Last week’s announcement from Gentoo is a reminder of how fragile our economic recovery has been.

News that the housing firm faces having to cut more than £70million from its budget over the next four years is a bitter blow and we will be working closely with the company to try to help staff affected by the cuts.

Keel Square

Keel Square

We will also be liaising closely with the city council as the search for a new chief executive begins.

I was saddened to learn that Dave Smith is moving on.

Dave has been a keen supporter of the city’s business community throughout his time in the civic centre hot-seat and it is essential that whoever takes over the reins has a similar commitment to encouraging and supporting economic activity across the city.

We will be working with the city council leader and key members of the authority to ensure stability and business as usual while the search for a new chief executive is under way and ensure we do not lose momentum as the process progresses.

Moving on to more positive news, how pleasing was it so see Siglion begin the process of consultation on the development of Vaux this month?

The former brewery site has sat empty for far too long, but the site is such a key part of the city centre, that it is vital we get the scheme right.

Speaking of exciting development in the city centre, it was great to see Keel Square officially opened yesterday.

The square’s public artworks have been a real hit with the public and the fountains have attracted crowds of happy children during the school holidays.

There was more good news with the announcement that ATG is to base its new contact centre at the Empire Theatre.

The Empire is one of the jewels in the crown of the city and we should be immensely proud of it.

It will, of course, have a role to play should Sunderland’s bid to be named UK City of Culture comes to fruition.

The bid will be formally launched soon and would provide a fantastic follow-up to the Tall Ships Race 2018 in terms of maintaining the city’s profile.

Preparations for the Tall Ships are progressing well and July’s visit to Belfast gave us a real insight into how to maximise the economic benefit of bringing so many visitors to the city.

The one thing that really emerged was that none of us can do it alone – we will need to work closely together across public and private sectors to ensure we get the most out of the event.

Speaking of the city’s profile, just a quick word to say well done to all involved with the #WearHere Twitter champaign, which saw all that is best about Wearside the second most popular subject trending nationally.

With up to 11million people’s Twitter feeds having featured the hashtag, I’m sure it will have been quite an eyeopener for people in other parts of the country and shows how, when we work together, we can make the national headlines, as well as highlighting the huge potential of social media for promoting the city.

The next meeting of the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Sunderland committee will be held in the James Herriott suite at the Stadium of Light between 4pm and 5.30pm on, October 20.

I look forward to welcoming you there.

Gary Hutchinson is SAFC commercial director and chairman of the NECC Sunderland committee.