Lancashire’s top businesses gather for City Deal discussion

More than 100 Lancashire business representatives gathered to discuss the opportunities presented by the City Deal, which is set to boost the county economy by £1bn.

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The Question Time-style panel event was hosted by Lancashire Business View in association with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Preston and South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

One of the LEP’s key projects, the City Deal has been described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime funding programme’, creating jobs and homes.

Funded by Central Government to the tune of £430m, City Deal’s aims include:

  • Creating 20,000 jobs
  • Stimulating £1bn of new economic activity
  • Developing 10 million sq ft of commercial space
  • Building 17,000 new homes
At the event at Bartle Hall, business and public sector leaders shared their vision and outlined what opportunities the City Deal will create in terms of skills, investment and collaboration.

DSC_0562Guest panellists at the event included Jim Carter, chairman of City Deal and deputy chairman, Eric Wright Group, Anna Doran, general manager, Anglo Scottish Route, Virgin Trains, Stephen Gregson, corporate finance director, Moore And Smalley, Paul Kelly, owner, Tilemaster Adhesives, Julie Thornhill, general manager, Waitrose Distribution Centre and Dr John Lonsdale, director of innovation and enterprise, UCLan.

Jim Carter said: “The LEP has looked at what Lancashire has to offer when attracting investors in to the county. Our research found we have very friendly people, it’s a great place to live and you get great value for money.

“We’re starting the City Deal from a great position with great raw material. We’ve now got to go out and sell the idea and convince the rest of the country that Lancashire is a great place to be: the ripple effect of the City Deal will be huge.”

Anna Doran said: “There’s a warmth and friendliness in Lancashire and we’re amazingly located within the UK. You can be in Scotland or in London in around two hours. Why wouldn’t you live and do business here?

“We’ve got to see Preston as the gateway to the whole of Lancashire and its businesses. The more we can speak with one voice it will make it easier for others to say Lancashire is a really easy place to do business.”

Stephen Gregson said: “It’s not simply about rallying people to work in Lancashire; it’s about dispersing out elsewhere. The education institutions that we have are a really important draw and there’s a really good offer here.

DSC_0472Paul Kelly said: “It’s not rocket science; the key is staff and the staff here in Lancashire are outstanding.  Anybody investing in the area has to show commitment to staff, it’s a two-way street.

“It’s how you communicate the belief and love for the area. This is the best place in the country to do business. Everything is linked, it’s like a family, and we’re perfectly situated geographically.”

Julie Thornhill said: “People are very friendly and open here, but I think the road networks provide great connectivity. We’re located specifically where we are to enable us to get to any location in one delivery driver run.”

Dr John Lonsdale said: “The area has a great infrastructure, great people and has great educational infrastructure as well. So Lancashire in general has many natural advantages over other areas, it’s the place to be for business.

“Most people should be able to see the halo affect from the investments coming in: more people coming in to the area, more spend, they are seeing and appreciating the benefits already.”

Richard Slater, publisher of Lancashire Business View, said: “Events like this help the business and public sector communities to learn from each other and share ideas. “Creating a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground is good for business.”

  • The next Lancashire Hotspots events will take place in Burnley in April and West Lancashire in June.