Former food festival CEO appointed as head of South Wales Chamber

The former chief executive of Wales’s most successful food festival will now be promoting the country’s businesses in her new position at the helm of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce.

Heather Myers will call on more than 25 years of business experience in Wales to be a driving force at the Chamber, where she will work closely with SMEs across south Wales to provide vital support and offer them a strong voice in both Welsh and UK governments.

Her appointment comes after a four-year tenure as the CEO of the Abergavenny Food Festival. Since its inception in 1999, the festival has grown its audience from 3,000 visitors to become the largest food festival in Wales with more than 30,000 attendees every year, attracting big name brands and showcasing the very best food and drink from Wales and across the world.

Mrs Myers encouraged the growth of the festival which has won numerous awards under her leadership. It was named the “Best Event in Wales” by Visit Wales and won “Best Event 2016” at Wales Online’s People’s Choice Awards, in recognition of the impact that has been made on growing the food tourism industry. During her role with the festival, she also helped develop a skills agenda to support the development of businesses in Wales.

Mrs Myers knows first-hand the plight of Welsh SMEs, spending a number of years in an advisory and mentoring role developing a strong understanding of businesses in a number of different sectors, including challenges like recruitment and the development of skilled staff, finance and marketing.

“Welsh businesses are operating in unprecedented times, with the Brexit vote, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, the proposals for the M4 relief road and South Wales Metro all potentially having long-term impacts on the future of SMEs,” said Mrs Myers.

“In many of these areas, businesses in Wales have been left with more questions than answers. The role of the Chamber is to listen to the needs of our members, to provide them with clarity, to offer advice and help them receive up to date and relevant support so that they know how best to move forward.”

Mrs Myers began her career with Torfaen Council as an assistant planner, quickly rising up the ranks through her work on major regeneration projects, including a conservation role in Blaenavon and later work with the policy and scrutiny team to align the Council’s departments under a single set of core business values.

During her time at the Abergavenny Food Festival, she built an appreciation for the impact tourism can have as an economic generator in Wales, and how small changes that businesses make can help transform their fortunes and subsequently those of the country and the wider economy as a whole.

“The festival was not just a huge logistical operation but was also closely integrated with the local community, including great B2B opportunities,” acknowledged Myers. “Instead of sending waste generated at the festival to landfill sites, for example, we chose to pay a little extra and work with a local recycling firm instead. Not only did this provide work for a local business but it also reflected well on the festival brand and allowed us to secure sponsors that appreciated our green credentials.”

“My role with the Chamber will enable me to not only act as an ambassador but also represent our members as an independent voice of Welsh SMEs, ensuring that as a member led organisation, we listen and provide the best support possible. In such a turbulent business environment, it’s a great honour to be able to lead the Chamber and ensure that Welsh businesses continue to be successful, both at home and on the international stage.”

Liz Maher, president of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce, said: “A strong and articulate business voice in Wales is more important than ever at a time when we are facing major strategic issues, at both Wales and UK level, and I’m more than confident that Heather can provide this.

“The Chamber and its members need to see a clear strategic vision that incorporates City Deal and Brexit, so that we’re not left asking the same questions five years down the line. We want to see a strong infrastructure strategy for Wales, so that the country is not only seen as being ‘open for business’, but as somewhere that businesses can thrive and be successful, both domestically and internationally.

“Heather’s experience in food, tourism and local government, alongside her business advisory work, makes her a perfect fit for the Chamber and I have no doubt that she will be a great asset to businesses across the country.”

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