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Just what business did you get up to in 2006?

As 2006 draws to a close Northern Business Daily asked a few of the region's business people what they made of the year. Their hopes and resolutions for the year ahead will appear after Christmas.

Keith Hann, Northumberland-based financial PR and Journal columnist

FOR as long as I can remember, my catchphrase has been 'What could possibly go wrong?' With the addition of the word 'now' at the end, it is the perfect line for cheering up one's fellow passengers as the plane hurtles down the runway. But it is not merely designed to irritate: it is quite simply the most important question anyone in business can ask themselves.

Imagine how different the fate of GNER might have been if they had thought through the possible downsides when they framed their winning franchise bid.

Although there have been times when I have cursed them, GNER were undoubtedly the best of the privatised train operators, and their recently advertised departure was perhaps the saddest news of 2006. Vying only with the non-departure of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, the Captain Mainwaring of Downing Street. His demise has come to resemble one of those never-ending death scenes played by a comic great of the 1960s: Eric Morecambe, Frankie Howerd or Tommy Cooper. Or maybe Bernie Winters: the one who wasn't actually funny. Will he go in 2007? I'm not holding my breath.

Maggie Pavlou, President of the North-East Chamber of Commerce and HR Director of Parkdean Holidays

I GO into 2007 with a sense of pride about what the Chamber has achieved in 2006 and a great deal of optimism for what the next 12 months will hold.

The Go For Jobs campaign, in partnership with The Journal and Evening Gazette, has won plaudits, awards and recognition from the highest echelons and I am keen to see us build on such a positive campaign which will have a profound effect on the North-East.

I am extremely excited about progress on Business Link North-East which will signal a new era of business support in April.

And finally, I am delighted that Mary Coyle will take over running Aspire, the perception change programme co-owned by NECC, next year. I am sure that 2007 will be the year in which Aspire really delivers on the aims it is intended to achieve.

This has been a difficult year personally and I thank everyone for their kind support and I look forward to 2007 as an opportunity for new beginnings and a year in which I am confident NECC will go from strength to strength.

Mary Coyle, incoming chief executive of the Aspire Campaign

2006 has really raised the bar in terms of the quality and variety of events designed to engage and inspire young people to uncover the range and diversity of career opportunities of available on their doorstep.

The highlight of Aspire's work to bring employers face-to-face with our young people this year has to be the North-East Really Delivers bus tour that saw a converted double decker take to the open road, visiting six regional locations over five weeks during the summer. The schedule was jam-packed with workshops held by the region's top employers as well as competitions and careers surgeries to give young people a taste for their future career choices during their vacation. This unforgettable experience culminated in the Big Bash aspirations party for young people at Northumbria University Students' Union.

The Aspire Campaign was also fortunate to work with a number of delivery organisations this year particularly Tyne and Wear Business Week and helped to promote Biz Idol Under 18, which encouraged school pupils to think like entrepreneurs.

Nicholas Craig is a partner at Watson Burton LLP in Newcastle

IT'S difficult to think on a year long basis when I'm agonising over the Ashes in Australia. Such torment in brilliant sunshine is surprisingly bearable, you'll be relieved to hear.

Lingering on the sun a little longer, I'd quite like another July to match this year's, weatherwise.

I promise to do extremely friendly environmental things all year round to balance the guilty enjoyment of a long stretch of good weather in Northumberland.

A bit of light on the current political uncertainty wouldn't come amiss either. Who's leading the country, and to where? I'd also like to see a mandatory resolution to demand far less political correctness.

The contortions to which some authorities and individuals go to be PC threatens to strangle them all in bright red recyclable tape.

One of my highlights of 2006 was seeing the end of an architectural eyesore in Westgate Road. Let's hope the other clodhopping concrete monstrosities still standing in Newcastle city centre come to an equally quick and painfree end as soon as possible.

Jamie Martin, CBI regional chairman, managing partner at Newcastle law firm Ward Hadaway and chairman of Newcastle College

THE past year has seen the North-East economy reinvigorated and the sense of renewed confidence in the region is tangible. For the first time in decades, we are seeing a brain gain rather than a brain drain.

Business has boomed across a whole range of sectors ( the North-East now has the highest rate of hi-tech start-up businesses outside London while Teesside is becoming a European hot-spot for the fast-growing biofuels and renewable energy industry.

Corporate activity has been buoyant and kept us busy at Ward Hadaway throughout the year while major plcs such as Northern Rock, Sage, Barratt Developments, Go-Ahead and Bellway have all impressed the City by returning some excellent figures. It was also heartening to see the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that 100,000 more people in the region are in work now, compared to eight years ago. And a personal highlight of 2006 was Tony Blair's address to the CBI North-East annual dinner in October. It's not often you get to share the platform with the Prime Minister.

Paul Callaghan, chairman of Leighton Group, the Sunderland-based technology and communications company, and chairman Business Link North-East

IN retrospect 2006 has been a fantastic year for our companies in the Leighton Group and for the region.

4Projects, our online project management company, has been used in some of the most prestigious projects in the world and every time the train pulls into Kings Cross Station in London I enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done as we pass the new Arsenal Stadium which we helped deliver 'on time and on budget' using 4Projects software.

Roll on the Olympics as there is another big stadium just waiting to be built. Communicator Corp, our digital marketing business, saw exponential growth fuelled by the increasing take-up of broadband internet.

Now almost 50% of UK households have broadband and reportedly people are spending more time using the internet than watching TV. Finally Leighton, the web agency in the group, has continued to show that here in the North-East we have the creative and technical talent to produce web sites of exceptional quality that match (and often exceed) the best in the world.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2006
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