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Let’s get this party started

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

As the country prepares to start the long-awaited journey out of lockdown, DIB boss Frank Mckenna tells us why writing off cities is daft; permanently working from home is dumb; and getting the economy singing again is Downtown.

We have lost many things during the past twelve months. Too many have lost loved ones. Many have seen their jobs, livelihoods or businesses go to the wall. There has been an explosion in anxiety and mental health challenges. School children have fallen behind in their studies. The economy has tanked.

Yet, as is often the case in a crisis, many of us have had an opportunity to reflect on what to appreciate in life. Our family. Our friends. Our work colleagues. And the ability to meet up, socialise, engage, and enjoy one another’s company.

For a short period of time back in the early days of this hugely damaging COVID-crisis, there was a vocal movement who were trying to tell us that cities were dead; that the office was a thing of the past; that everyone now wanted to work from home; that staying in was the new going out. A year later, and those assumptions are looking about as far fetched as a Donald Trump coronavirus remedy.

The fact is that twelve months down a long and winding road, we are all desperate to reconnect to our workplaces, our cities and even to our bosses.

Of course, there will be a more relaxed attitude about presenteeism and the demands for teams to be at their office desks five days a week. But that was happening anyway. There will also be an increased demand to deliver good on investment into cleaner, more efficient public transport systems. Some of the inequalities that have had the spotlight shone on them in recent months must also be tackled by our senior politicians, in partnership with business and other stakeholders.

However, the one thing that has not changed and will not change is our animal instinct to meet up, to socialise, to network.

As grateful as I am to Zoom (and DIB has hosted more events on this platform than any other organisation in our industry), and as much as I have enjoyed the opportunity of lounging around in casual gear for most of 2020 and into 2021, I am convinced that I am in the majority when I say that I cannot wait to get a haircut, get my glad rags on, hit the town and get the party started all over again.

And I’m not just talking about having the first draft Guinness at the Restaurant Bar & Grill, the long awaited Fazenda feast, a night out in Birmingham, a visit to the capital or a stay in one of my favourite hotels and spas.

The virtual world may have been okay for staying in touch and staying informed. But I don’t know anyone who has done a Million- pound deal on a Zoom call.

Because, in the end, people do business with people. And before we shake hands, or fist pump, on a deal, we want to have looked into the whites of their eyes, gotten up close and personal and believe that this is someone who you can not only sign a contract with, but someone you can get on with too.

This is what makes Downtown in Business a success. Its why we have facilitated literally hundreds of millions of pounds worth of deals during the past eighteen years. And the confidence the business community has in the vaccination roll out and a return to normal is demonstrated by the huge spike in membership we have enjoyed in the first quarter of this year.

As the business group who hosted the ONLY major live event (post-March) in 2020, one of the few who hosted a series of in-person lunches when restrictions allowed during the Pandemic and the organisation that shouted long and loud about the need for businesses to be supported through this traumatic time, we are well prepared to help you hit the ground running with a comprehensive range of activities for the remainder of 2021.

Our cities will bounce back and with them our economy will too. DIB is pleased to be involved with so many fantastic companies who, we know, will be doing everything they can to make that happen – and we will do everything we can to support you. Prepare yourself for a year of working hard and playing hard. I look forward to seeing you at a ‘live’ Downtown event very soon. It’s time to get back to business.

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