The decision to go ahead with the initiative was welcomed at a scene-setting workshop event when BME representatives met to explore issues and business support needs relevant to local enterprises.
“Feedback from the meeting highlighted a number of key issues, including the need for pro-active partnerships and a better dialogue between community groups,” said Mike Ashton,
Chief Executive of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, which co-hosted the event. He added: “As an initial meeting, it proved very successful and has set the scene for future discussions to create a minority ethnic business network for Worcestershire.”
The workshop, held at Worcester Warriors Conference Centre, Sixways, Worcester, was organised in conjunction with regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, Business Link West Midlands, West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Forum and Worcestershire County Council.
Mr Ashton added: “It is essential that organisations such as Business Link WM, Trading Standards and the like are seen as business support organisations – not the enemy or a threat.
“I want to see positive action come from this meeting as we move forward. Above all, we must not be just another talking shop,” he said.
Rukhsana Koser, diversity manager at Worcestershire County Council, said: “Going forward, it is essential that we maintain the impetus we have gained from today,” while West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Forum chairman Mohammad Nazir said minority ethnic enterprises should not operate in isolation but should be part of the greater business community.
David Ledbury, from Business Link West Midlands, said “One of the objectives of the meeting was to help minority ethnic businesses to become more aware of the full range of support services that were on offer and we achieved that today.”
“The event was an opportunity to hear from business experts and leaders. Importantly, however, it was also an opportunity for minority ethnic enterprises to have their say and to let us know what support they really need,” said Monica Coke, who is Minority Business Development Policy Manager at regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
One of the delegates at the meeting, who welcomed the decision to establish the business network, was Bromsgrove-based Asian entrepreneur Anita Sharma-James, who runs an Indian cookery school as part of her Spice Trade operation. “It was a very worthwhile exercise,” she said.
Community leader Boon Yeng, from the Redditch Chinese Association, commented: “The meeting provided an informative forum and we now look forward to positive developments.”
• According to the latest statistics, the minority ethnic population in Worcestershire increased from 13,700 in 2001 to 25,900 in 2007 – showing a population percentage rise from 2.5 percent to 4.7 percent.