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About East Kent Chambers of Commerce

East Kent Chambers of Commerce is focused on promoting successful commercial activity and profitable trading for the benefit of all companies, workers and residents in our East Kent coastal community. Thanet & East Kent Chamber recruits from the districts of Thanet and Canterbury whereas the Dover District Chamber of Commerce’s catchment area is in the districts of Dover and Folkestone & Hythe. Blessed with a common board of directors and shared staff, we present ourselves nationally as East Kent Chambers of Commerce offering a strong collective voice in support of business in our corner of the United Kingdom.

With deep roots in the area, we can trace our origins to the year 1850, when the first telegraph cable was laid from Dover to France. Through the Victorian era to the present day, the Chamber has supported business, commerce, education and skills under a variety of political regimes and economic cycles. Our archives for 28th April 1870 show that it was the contribution of £300 each by ten directors of the Dover Chamber which provided the finance to open Dover College the following year: “To provide for Boys a High Class Education on very moderate terms”. School fees were set at £10.10 a year. Two college alumni, Frances Parsons in the 2nd Boer War and Arthur Harrison in WWI, have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

We celebrated the first flight across the English Channel by Louis Blériot in 1909 and were even more enthusiastic about the first and quicker non-stop return flight by Charles Rolls in 1910.  On Christmas Eve 1914, Chamber members shared the foreboding of worse to come when the first bomb to be dropped on British soil in World War 1 fell in the rectory garden of St James’s church in Dover. Easy Kent was a target for enemy action throughout both world wars. Airfields at Manston, Hawkinge and Lydd provided a base for the Spitfires and Hurricanes that won the Battle of Britain. East Kent’s citizens and companies showed a resilience which proved inspirational to the nation as a whole.

Since 1945, East Kent has faced many economic challenges, including the departure of the military from Dover and Deal, the closure of all four local coal mines, the loss of train ferries, the ending of duty- free concessions and the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 in direct competition to cross-channel ferries from Dover Folkestone and Ramsgate. The sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry in 1987 sent shock waves throughout East Kent. Chamber members felt keenly the grief of the families of the 193 fatalities in what was the worst UK civilian peacetime maritime disaster since the Titanic. The Dover Counselling Centre, founded soon afterwards, continues to be actively supported by the Chamber. The Deal bombing by the IRA in 1989 in which 11 young musicians perished saw the resolve of local citizens sorely tested again.

In recent years, the Chamber has expanded its range of support significantly. Under Chamber Presidents Sir Roger Gale MP, Natalie Elphicke MP and Craig Mackinlay MP, we can fairly claim to have a powerful voice for East Kent at all levels of government.

In August 2013, the Chambers opened a research office at Discovery Park in Sandwich to coordinate business intelligence. In 2016, a new office was opened near Dover seafront to be followed in 2017 with a new second base in Whitfield. In 2018, the Chamber played a full part in the Brexit debate, hosting meetings for the Bank of England and voicing the views of East Kent businesses to BBC South East, ITV Meridian, South Korean Television, Agence France Presse, German Television and France 5.

The Chamber managed a successful Kickstart programme, provided business advice to the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club and hosted a series of networking sessions and summits designed to help members take full advantage of the opportunities available. Strong links with universities, Further Education Colleges and schools ensure that education and business can indeed work together for their mutual benefit.

East Kent enjoys the UK’s fastest train service, has excellent road links to London and offers visitors and tourists some world-class heritage assets. As the closest part of Britain to mainland Europe, East Kent is well placed to host international businesses and ambitious companies looking to expand.

Our board is looking to develop further international ties, encourage inward investment, promote tourism and reduce the obstacles and regulatory burdens that stifle growth. In keeping with a tradition established in 1850, all our operations are driven by the needs and interests of our members.

East Kent Chambers of Commerce

Our focus is local, our influence national and our reach global

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