Preston needs some attitude

Frank McKenna

A recently published report, commissioned by the Northwest Regional Development Agency to investigate Preston’s future economic potential, has highlighted that Preston has been treading water for years, and has failed to take advantage of the last decade of economic prosperity.

The 188 page dossier, compiled by consultants GVA Grimley, exposes weak civic leadership as a major problem and describes Preston as the North West’s ‘best kept secret’; not helped by ‘an incoherent marketing strategy’.

The report goes on to highlight the still significant opportunities available to the UK’s newest city, with the Tithebarn development seen as a central plank to Preston’s regeneration and renewal.

The Economic Potential for Preston paper also suggests that stronger leadership and more effective promotional campaigning would have seen the city on a par with Liverpool.

I welcome this no-punches-pulled assessment, not least because it vindicates many of the comments that Downtown Preston has made during the past two years.

If Preston is to take advantage of the potential it undoubtedly has it needs an injection of that thing Liverpool has in abundance – attitude!

For too long the city has allowed its Red Rose neighbours to dictate the pace of change (slow), manipulate agenda’s and ignore the strategic sense of placing Preston at the heart of a Lancashire city-region.

There also seems to be an unhealthy scepticism whereby, for Prestonians, the glass is always half empty. Almost any initiative is met with disapproval and complaint; most recently the excellent pop concert event was pilloried by many in the community, rather than welcomed.

Attitude is about ‘can do’ and that is what Preston must be about from now on in.

It also means being tough on occasion, and the stance taken by the new leader of Lancashire County Council, Geoff Driver, who, it has been suggested, is threatening to withhold cash from Fylde coast local authorities unless they drop their objections to the Tithebarn project, is a step in the right direction.

The appointment of Eliot Lewis Ward as chief executive of Preston Vision is also good news for the city.

As for marketing Preston, well almost anything will be seen as an improvement. But, free of charge, how about this for a strap line? Preston – the business friendly city with ATTITUDE!

Frank McKenna is the founder and chairman of Downtown Preston in Business.