The light with the shade in our economic picture

I penned a critical note to the Chief Economist of one of the UK’s leading business organisations this week following what felt like an overly gloomy press statement. It seemed a bold move from a local business network, but felt right for two reasons.

Firstly, I accept that one man’s realist is another’s pessimist/optimist (depending on your take) but when confidence plays a key part in the prospects for the economy I cannot see how trumpeting the downsides helps. More importantly we have seen a number of big positives in Oxfordshire business of late but the recent flurry of national media statements don’t seem to reflect that.

We have ProDrive announcing it will increase employees number from 450 to 700 within three years. The MD of Harley-Davidson for Europe, the Middle East and Africa told an audience at October’s OxFocus how the iconic motorcycle company achieved 9.3% growth in the region, in the 6 months ending June 2011. Two of our leading business parks reported positive news: Milton Park had a record month in terms of attracting new tenants, the Jennings-owned Monument Park at Chalgrove is approaching 100 per cent occupancy – its strongest position for almost five years.

We challenged followers on twitter to pen tweet-length perspectives and saw a good reflection of the plus-minus balance: “the economic climate is affecting us far more than new competition, a lot of people short of money…”, “good for me but tough for many and going to get worse”, “no apparent downturn in local businesses wanting to advertise locally on the website, though creditors seem to be taking longer to pay!”

It remains challenging no doubt – and there have been offsetting redundancy stories – but it’s vital that politicians, business leaders and media paint the light as well as the shade in the economic picture.

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