Chief Executive of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Unite, talks about recovery, resilience and why she chose Perth as home.
Vicki Unite has held the position of Chief Executive of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce since July 2006, placing her in the frontline of local business, strategic developments and economic influence for over 15 years.
Her career started at Reuters in London and she then moved to the online trading arm of global financial services giant J P Morgan Chase. In the past 18 months she has worked alongside her peers on the Covid-19 Perth and Kinross Task Force to create the Economic Wellbeing plan, the strategic route to local recovery, post-lockdown.
What is the most significant change you’ve experienced in your time as Chief Exec at Perthshire Chamber?
I’d have to say lockdown. There is very little that comes close to the devastation and impact that the pandemic has had on business. From small sole traders to global organisations, everyone has been affected.
Through my work at the Chamber and as a member of the Taskforce I talked to hundreds of business owners first-hand who were genuinely worried about their chances of survival. Preparing people for downsizing, redundancies and the threat of closure all became a daily occurrence.
Of course, there were also businesses that were in a position to seize opportunities presented and through schemes such as Kickstart we looked towards supporting growth too.
What do you consider the area’s biggest strength as we look towards recovery?
Our people and the power of everyone working together. I think Perth offers many benefits but when you boil it down it is the collective wealth of expertise, experiences, skills and knowledge, coupled with a desire to help others that really makes us stand out. I am forever amazed and inspired by the passion, creativity, grit and innovation demonstrated by our business community and it is something we should be very proud of.
I also find that companies of all sizes are willing to step forward in their support of one another. If there is one positive to be taken from the pandemic, then it’s that.
How would you like to see that support in Perth and Kinross continue?
I’d like to see inclusivity become a larger part of the discussion. When we were talking to people during lockdown, I heard stories about small business owners using foodbanks and going through sleepless nights worrying about their house being repossessed.
Alongside this, through our work with Developing the Young Workforce and more recently with the DWP through Kickstart, I see inequalities in the opportunities on offer for both young people and older people. Not only is it a matter of fairness, but from an economic point of view, there are significant benefits to be gained from a skilled workforce and a well-balanced society.
Along with our partners we are trying to bridge the gap between those looking for work and the businesses crying out for employees so they can grow capacity and keep up with demand. It is really sad to see companies turn away business because of a lack of staff, especially after such a devastating 18 months.
The pandemic also highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and the Chamber and its partners continue to champion improvements so that all businesses, but especially those in our rural areas, can compete fairly.
Finally, why have you chosen Perth as your home and place to grow your career?
I was born in Perth but like many young people, I moved away to experience other places, to study and work in the UK and abroad before returning home – and I was so pleased to return with a better understanding of what was on my own doorstep. It has a real pull, a draw, because it offers a way of life unlike anywhere else.
From a business point of view our size and location lend themselves to adaptation and evolution and we’re so well connected it is easy for businesses to locate here and stay in touch with the world.
We have all the trappings of a big city: great eateries, culture, sports, gorgeous shops and lovely neighbourhoods. But on top of that we have these big green spaces and access to the countryside right on our doorstep. I think we still have so much potential, and we can realise this by continuing to pull together.
Perthshire Chamber of Commerce is currently working on a new international base for trade and is developing new ways of harnessing the value of its local network to bring benefit and added support to its 400-strong membership base. To find out more visit: