Buy it in Lancashire campaign gathers momentum

Business and political leaders came together to show their support for Lancashire Business View’s growing campaign to increase the county’s GDP by £1bn.

The gathering heard that almost 100 companies and organisations had now signed up to the ‘Buy it in Lancashire and Bring Back a Billion!’ drive, with millions of pounds already being kept in the county’s economy.

More businesses were urged to sign the pledge to divert just five per cent more of their annual spend to county suppliers.

Lancashire Business View publisher Richard Slater told the meeting at Samlesbury Hotel: “This is not a badge, it’s not about a logo. It is a movement, it is a vision and it is starting to get traction. We are creating something that shines a light on the county."

A top panel of speakers and more than 70 participants took place in the campaign’s first major event.

Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown was the keynote speaker. The local authority’s globally-acclaimed “Preston Model” for directing more public money into the local economy has been a major inspiration for the campaign, which is urging private businesses to do the same.

Preston's ground-breaking approach to doing business and community wealth building is now worth £489m to Lancashire’s economy, according to the latest figures.

Coun Brown also told the gathering of plans to set up a community bank to provide access to finance for businesses in the county.

He said that the heart of the Preston Model was encouraging the city’s large-scale institutions to buy from local suppliers. And he added: “It is about trying to spend a bit more in Preston and in Lancashire.”

Coun Brown said the approach was benefitting local businesses in a range of sectors. And he added: “We are trying to make procurement easier for local business and encouraging companies to take opportunities.”

He was joined at the meeting by Melissa Conlon, commercial director at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Bipin Patel, business consultant at Guide Security, Chris Durham, commercial director at Ronset, Mark Edwards, operations director at Seriun and Julian Silverwood, director at Silverwoods Waste Management.

The Lancashire business leaders from all parts of the county took part in a panel discussion on the campaign and its future.

Mark Edwards told the audience that his company was actively seeking Lancashire suppliers. He said: “As we spend more with local companies and build those relationships we are getting better service to be honest, and that makes a difference.”

He said that the business was now bringing back between £100,000 and £150,000 into Lancashire and when buying it looked to find county businesses first. He added: “The more we can push that message out the better.”

Melisa Conlon said the construction of the new AMRC building on the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone was a major opportunity for local companies and the aim was to put as much work as possible to businesses in the county.

She said AMRC in the North West was also working to get more Lancashire businesses on its supply chain framework.

And she added: “We are trying to buy local when possible. We go around and we are amazed about the things we are making in Lancashire.”

Julian Silverwood said his waste management business was spending just over £1.4m in Lancashire and was continually looking to work with more county-based businesses.

Chris Durham told the audience it had been buying supplies in Sussex but since the launch of the Bring Back A Billion campaign had now switched to a company in Preston, which meant £10,000 a year was now being kept in the local economy.

Bipin Patel said relationship building was vital for the success of the campaign. He added: “It is not just about us getting what we want, it is about giving what we can, and bringing that to the table.