Businesses flew the flag for Dorset at an annual conference in London as sparks flew over Europe and the economic recovery.
The party from Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) joined more than 1,000 delegates at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) event just months before the general election.
Speakers included PM David Cameron, Business Innovation and Skills Secretary (BIS) Vince Cable, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, Shadow BIS Secretary Chuka Umunna, Secretary of State William Hague and Nick Boles, Skills and Equalities Minister.
BCC director general John Longworth, Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio, former Apprentice advisor and Bright Ideas Trust chairman Margaret Mountfield, rugby world cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward, Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye and Hotel Chocolat chief executive Angus Thirlwell were also among the speakers.
Delegates at the QEII Conference Centre opposite Westminster Abbey heard politicians and business leaders clash over the timing of a EU referendum as well as highlight issues over access to finance and investment, wage rises, international trade and exports, and business rates.
Chief executive Ian Girling, who led the Dorset delegation, said: “With the calibre of national politicians and business figures in attendance, it shows Dorset is punching its weight on the national stage.
“The BCC sees the value in consulting progressive chambers such as Dorset to help forge national policy and exert its influence at a national level.
“The conference confirmed our priorities to continue to expand our services to support businesses and help drive growth but also to focus on international trade to help re-balance the economy.
“We all left inspired by a tremendous event and with optimism for the year ahead as the economy continues to improve.”
DCCI – the voice of business in Dorset – is the only chamber in the county accredited to the BCC. It has more than 700 members representing more than 37,000 employees.
Business partners and guests were among the DCCI delegation, from A-One Insurance, Barclays, Bournemouth University, Broadstone Chamber of Trade and Commerce, C4L, the Dorset and Daily Echoes (Newsquest Dorset), Lead Forensics, Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, PPR Media Solutions and Savills.
Mr Girling, senior vice-president David McNair and junior vice-president Vincent Boni also met with Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns at the Houses of Parliament during the day.
They discussed issues facing the town and wider area over the coming year to ensure the local economy maximises its growth, including the role of tourism and businesses.
Mr Girling said: “This was an amazing day for the Chamber networks and highlighted how important the role of the British Chambers of Commerce network is at the highest levels.
” It was also a fantastic opportunity meet Conor and discuss key issues facing Dorset.
“It is important to maintain our dialogue with Conor and other influential figures countywide to ensure we are working together in the best way for the benefit of the area.”
Speakers at the conference also included DHL chief executive Phil Couchman, Danny Longbottom, who is managing director for UK SME, BT Business, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and SuperJam founder Fraser Doherty.