Archive for December, 2011

 

What a wonderful piece of news for Cardiff and Wales to be selected to host the 51st WBC World Boxing Convention in 2013.

Well done to Neil McAvoy, Richard Thomas, John H Stracey and the rest of the delegation who returned victorious from Las Vegas this week, having fought off competition from Croatia and Dubai.

It is events like this that will further underline Cardiff’s growing reputation as a world class sports destination.

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Becci, Rob and I got into the festive spirit on Friday by going along with some of the Tillery Valley team to the FareShare depot in Cardiff. The Tillery Valley team have been donating their frozen ‘overs’ to the charity for over two years, and in the run up to Christmas, have been helping the charity to fill, pack and deliver pallets of donated food items to causes and centres across South Wales. That day we would be going to the Salvation Army, the Huggard centre and the YMCA, dropping off everything from teabags and beans to rice pudding. And chocolate – lots of chocolate!

The first thing we noticed when arriving at the depot (apart from the chilly temperatures!) was the really positive atmosphere.  Project co-ordinator Katie, depot director Keith, driver Michelle and the rest of the FareShare team were all so positive and friendly, it was no effort at all to get excited about getting stuck in. And the santa hats we brought along definitely helped!

Katie started by explaining the ordering process. She phones each centre or recipient with a list of the items FareShare have in stock, and makes suggestions for things they might like. She also notes down any requests for items that they don’t currently have available, in case something similar comes in for the next round of deliveries. Then, with Katie and Michelle calling the shots, Phil, Denis and Darren from Tillery Valley got down to work ‘picking’ the items for the day’s destinations.

It was really interesting to see just what was sent to each place. Keith, the FareShare depot director, explained that there is often a very tight turn-around on the items they receive, as they are often close to their sell-by dates. That’s why Tillery Valley’s ‘overs’ are particularly helpful as, being chilled or frozen, they are a lot longer-lasting. The meals are also nutritionally balanced, which is particularly beneficial considering many of FareShare’s deliveries are to centres for the homeless. Nobody wants to hungry at Christmas.

Pallets packed, the team jumped in the van to make its first delivery. The Salvation Army centre were decorating their Christmas tree when we arrived, and the tins and boxes Phil and Denis dropped off were certainly a welcome present. We also met long-serving Salvation Army worker Melvin Walters, who showed us the kitchen and dining areas, and talked us through what the centre would be doing over the festive period. As well as offering it’s normal 60-plus beds, it was that night converting one of the lounge areas into another shelter, to prevent people having to sleep on the streets in the coming cold weather.  It was fascinating and really quite humbling to meet Melvin and listen to his stories about how Christmas is for the homeless, and the Tillery Valley team all said how much they valued the opportunity to see that their efforts would be making a real difference.

It was a really interesting morning for us all. The positivity of the FareShare team was infectious, and it was great to see first-hand the fantastic work they are doing in the South Wales region.

 

A strong turn out of figures from across the Cardiff business community battled the elements for the Cardiff Breakfast Club  meeting this morning, rewarded with an engaging and aspirational speech from Dame Gillian Morgan, the Permanent Secretary for the Welsh Government.

Dame Gillian focused on ‘delivering more for less’, discussing both the importance the Welsh Government has placed on this approach, and its means for implementing it.

With forecasters predicting a move into recession, the pressure is on for the public sector to get the most out of its resources, making its money work as hard as it can. To this end Dame Gillian discussed the Welsh Government’s reduction in both staff numbers and in buildings, reduced from 93 to just 40 across the country. Time, effort and energy have been invested in ascertaining just how they can ‘do things differently’.

This change in attitude, practice and culture is very necessary, as Dame Gillian stressed. She outlined three big challenges: firstly, a cultural complacency. There is ‘some wonderful stuff’ happening here, and we need to be proud about it – to compare and compete with the best. Dame Gillian also discussed the necessity of effectively marketing Cardiff and the South Wales region, to remove the perception of it as ‘distant’ or ‘decrepit’. She recounted correcting someone who was under the impression that it took 8 hours to get to Cardiff! To get others to see the region differently, we must first begin to really champion ourselves.

The second challenge Dame Gillian noted was complexity, and indeed the Welsh Government have taken great steps to ‘declutter their environment’ in order to do more for and with less. Some initiatives can be done in a much more coordinated way, ‘blurring the autonomy’ and encouraging local communities to come together. In appropriate situations we must, Dame Gillian emphasised, encourage the ‘common sense’ approach!

The last, and biggest, challenge was that of capacity and capability. While Wales has the talent to match other regions, it does not necessarily have the depth. Dame Gillian used the department of transport policy as an example: while the Scottish Government has 74 employees in this area, Wales has 3. This challenge is being tackled through schemes that ‘train our own’, such as the recruitment of Welsh graduates into the Government’s intensive 2-year procurement course, and other apprenticeship schemes. Effective and charismatic leadership is also integral to resolving this, and the Welsh Government must lead by example.

As Dame Gillian heartily emphasised, steps are already being taken to get the absolute best from the resources in place here. There is ‘wonderful stuff’ happening in Wales – from business growth to Doctor Who – and with careful thought and implementation, it can flourish even further in the future.

 

I was delighted to read in today’s South Wales Echo about (94 year old!) Stanley Thomas’ fitness regime and DVD. What an example to everyone of his and other generations of the importance of keeping fit.

My father, Jack Petersen, and Stanley were good friends, and both great advocates of that wonderful saying “Healthy bodies, healthy minds”. I do wish more of our young and old members of society followed their example – the world would be a better place.

I totally agree with Richard Houdmont’s piece in today’s Western Mail, in which he stresses the important of marketing during a recession. When ‘faced by slack demand and a lack of confidence in the future… the first target for cuts is often the marketing budget.’

In all my years in the marketing business, it is the companies that continue to invest in marketing and PR, and wisely even increase their marketing spend, reap the dividends when times improve.

Research gathered over the recession justifies these comments and I urge companies considering their budgets for next year to not put a red line through marketing and promotion!

Once again the issue of a direct link from Cardiff to New York is raised in the Western Mail today by Ciaran Jones.

As a great supporter of the Cardiff City Region concept (see our earlier blog post!), and an occasional visitor to the world’s most exciting city, such a link is essential if we are to be a true player on the international stage.

Please reopen this debate and give Cardiff Airport management and its director, Patrick Duffy, the financial support it needs to make it happen.

New York, New York!

At last I detect momentum building in relation to the creation of a true City Region for Cardiff!

I was delighted to read Robert Chapman’s piece on this very important subject in today’s Echo. Robert talks a lot of good sense. Improved interconnection between local authorities, the WAG, and the private sector on issues such as transport, housing and employment are key to realising the dream.


Let’s follow the example of other countries where city regions are the norm. As Robert says, the approach ‘provides an opportunity to do more with less – a case of getting ahead together’. Now is the time to fully embrace this concept and ensure that Cardiff and its regions do not get left behind again in the race for economic prosperity for us all.

Let’s give Dr Elizabeth Haywood and her team maximum support in their task, to make this concept a reality.

 

I have read with great interest in the Western Mail today about the Millennium Stadium’s bid to host an NFL game in Cardiff next year. What a fantastic thought and I support it 100%. I have enjoyed at first hand premier basketball and baseball matches in the U.S. and believe Cardiff would benefit considerably by hosting such an event.

It will help our profile in the U.S. and generate significant income for Cardiff and the region. If it comes I for one will be amongst the first to buy a ticket!

Good luck Gerry Toms and the rest of the pitch team!