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Russell Borthwick: What next for Buy North East?

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It all started back in the summer of last year. Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) organised its first Ultimate Business Show – an expo which brought together over 70 of the highest profile and most innovative companies in the region and around 1,000 delegates with the objective of sharing ways of working differently, more smartly and providing solutions to the challenges around more effective and efficient procurement.

The first workshop session on the day focused on the Positive Procurement Programme run jointly by Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council. This initiative aims to ensure that north-east organisations have access to the appropriate knowledge and skills to participate successfully in bidding to win public sector contracts.

Post-event feedback was exceptionally positive and a common theme emerged asking how we could do more to highlight the benefits and economic impact of local companies trading together. So a small group of organisations led by the Chamber got together to consider this.

Conversation focused on the fact that many millions of pounds are spent every year by organisations from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire with companies based elsewhere in the UK or further afield, with the impact that the expenditure does not circulate in the local economy.

We agreed that, at a time when many businesses and individuals are feeling the impact of the oil and gas downturn, it is more important than ever that we collectively do all we can to help the regional economy with the aim of protecting and creating jobs here.

And so the Buy North East campaign was launched in October with the aim of getting the issue firmly on to the agenda of private, public and third sector organisations in the region, providing stimulus, case studies and practical advice to both buyers and sellers with the result that more business is done between companies based in city & shire.

The “ask” was simple; that companies signing up to support the initiative agreed to put Buy North East on a board meeting agenda before the end of 2016 and then sought to move at least one contract or piece of business to a local supplier over the next six months.

Reflecting at the end of November, the steering group agreed that the concept had gained remarkable traction in a short period with over 500 businesses signing up and lots of talk-ability through excellent press coverage, events and a really excellent roll of honour website hosted by Aberdeen Journals.

The general mood of the meeting was that having established the initial stimulus, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the momentum and brand equity that has been created but that any future phases should probably take some new directions rather than simply repeating the recipe.

In time, we agreed, the aim must be to reach a position whereby thinking “Buy North East” is just the accepted way that good business in the region works and therefore no longer needs to be the subject of a campaign.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for the campaign, and one of the consequences of this success has been that Buy North East is perhaps perceived as an organisation with staff and resources, rather than as a campaign run by five partners with the objective of raising the concept in the collective local consciousness.

And that’s where you come in! We need to understand the level of support out there for continuing the activity in 2017. What type of activities you believe could be introduced to keep the campaign fresh, relevant and effective. And whether there is an appetite to help fund this. Please do let us have your views at

And now for a blatant big plug!!

The second Ultimate Business Show is at the AECC on 26 April.

Around two thirds of the available stands have already been snapped up – so contact the Chamber quickly to secure yours before the sold-out signs go up!
If you just want to visit the event, keep the day free in your diary and look out for registration details at