On 19th February was in Chicago at the invitation of Professor John Ward, Kellogg School of Management, North Western University. Gave a talk and led a session (3.5 hours!) on Family Business and especially how non family executives fit in to the MBA Class of 2012 - 35 or so MBAs from larger family businesses from US and across the globe. Absolutely fascinating and worthwhile session - some really interesting people and lots of challenging debate. Had a few 45 minute 1:1s also... Was looked after superbly by my host, John Ward and his colleagues. Chicago is an amazing place - I love the US but Chicago will now definitely feature on any future return on holiday - a remarkable history, culturally, architecturally and economically.
Back to the UK and helped select the final 12 Nature Improvement Areas to be announced by the Government on 27th February - These are ground breaking initiatives which, if led and executed well, should set the tone for the blurring of the very polarised environment and farmer / landowner debates of the past. Successful NIAs require collaboration and joint working between, environmental NGOs, Local Authorities, statutory agencies, communities and most importantly farmers and land owners. It was this latter constituency that I was thinking about most whilst sitting on the Panel. I will be watching closely to see those NIAs that really pick up the baton and really involve and integrate farmers and landowners into the governance and decision making.
Forestry Panel still going strong and I hope to get back involved helping to pull our final report together over the coming weeks.
Back at the office, lots going on. Getting into the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for list was immensely rewarding. I didn't go to the party in London with the other 99 but our Estate table seemed to have a lot of fun. We now need to do the hard bit and evaluate the results, benchmark them and work with everyone across the Estate in understanding how we can further improve our Employee Engagement going forward. Although we have done well - I know that there are a number of things we can begin to do differently to make the Estate an even better place to work. This is going to need everyone's input please. Carla, Graham and myself will be working with teams to take this initiative forward in the coming weeks.
We appear in the local media quite a lot at the moment - mainly because there is so much going on. A lot of it linked to our 2021 Strategy and our four key programmes of STRUCTURE, CAPITAL, INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE and STEWARDSHIP AND SOCIETY. Potential developments at Exmouth for residential and our multi million pound investment in Liverton Business Park are keeping the team busy along with our work on the exciting affordable housing development at Greenway Lane Budleigh Salterton. We hope to hear from the Planning Inspectorate in the next few weeks on the outcome of our application to erect some fencing on the Pebblebed Heaths to increase the grazing regime and improve the natural habitat - this could become a really positive turning point in our management of the heaths and I shall be watching the outcome very closely. John Wilding has been on regional radio and TV and in the press over the increased felling activity of Japanese Larch to prevent the disease P. Ramorum getting hold. John is lobbying for better import controls and trying to get this issue on the agenda of Government. George is now also getting publicity over Clinton Farms' plans to increase the herd at Otter Dairy and construct a new livestock building!
Work on our 2012 Countryside Matters (The Estate Review) has just started with a publication date later in the Autumn.
Will give a further update in a few days...