THE new president of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce has told how businesses in the borough can unite to work for prosperity.

Craig Oakes said the chamber would “continue to stand up for businesses”.

Mr Oakes, of Oakes Insure, took over from Andrew Knowles at the chamber’s AGM at Weymouth College. He said: “As a chamber, the working together of businesses is paramount.”

He added: “Yes we can get better and yes it takes a bit of patience. From a chamber point of view, we continue to stand up for local businesses because we know that it underpins what makes Weymouth and Portland flow, and that is an amalgamation of many different businesses and quality institutions with a diverse set of employees and varied training and skills opportunities such as work placement, apprenticeship and flexible employment if people require it, or stable gainful employment or self-employment if they don’t.

“We are a borough of one voice with one message: ‘We want prosperity’ – and this can be achieved with a mix of the businesses that operate in Weymouth & Portland.

“As chamber members, all you need to do is look around and see that, you are as business owners and managers part of something that is very unique and special, an area that has many different useful parts to it, and that we all have the same common goal – to live and work in an area where we can all be different but we all want the same thing an business community that flourishes.”

Andrew Knowles, who has been president for two years, welcomed members to the meeting and thanked all those who had made his time as president successful. Highlights included the STAR (service, trade and retail) awards.

Taking over the meeting, Mr Oakes thanked his predecessor for ensuring the chamber had continued to evolve while doing what it did best. “It has been a pleasure and an honour to support him,” he added.

Mr Oakes is joined by vice-president Julia Cohen, of Weymouth College, and Mike House of Albert Goodman, who was appointed treasurer for the fifth year, on an executive committee consisting of 12 voluntary Chamber members.

The new president has taken on a personal challenge for his year in office, to lose two to three stones in weight while raising money for his chosen charity.

“I have teamed up with Zone Fitness and this year’s president’s chosen charity Weldmar, which we all know is a charity that has helped so many people locally and has made so many that little bit more comfortable in the twilight of their lives,” he said.

Mr Oakes had his official weigh-in, recorded and ready to be checked for his progress during the year in an effort to raise money to boost his weight loss.

He told members: “I wish you all a fantastic and successful year and urge you to look at the businesses around you not just tonight but day to day and see if you can engage with them and help each other out.”

Many members joined the president in the Avenue Restaurant at the College for a celebration meal for the past president and the new.

Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers from businesses and other organisations, is its 100th year and has a typical annual membership of around 100 organisations and individuals.

It organises one of the largest networking breakfasts in the area, attracting around 60 people each month, 10 times per year. It also arranges social and business events.