GLOBAL investors and a high flying royal guest dropped into Chester Racecourse to admire Cheshire’s economic thoroughbreds at a ‘business expo’ last weekend.
The county’s prestige employers including Grosvenor Estates, EA Technology, M&S Money, Bentley Motors and Cheshire Oaks joined forces with smaller enterprises to talk up and celebrate Cheshire as a diverse, active economy with the drive and thirst for success.
Marketing Cheshire, architects of the ‘business expo’, wanted to showcase the county as a fantastic place to visit, live and invest and raise the profile of the region’s £22bn economy.
HRH The Duke of Kent, who flew in by helicopter, praised the expo as an example of private and public partnerships helping to drive the economy forward through challenging times.
Friday’s inaugural day, ‘Business Cheshire’, attracted almost 2,000 registrations – surpassing the expectations of organisers.
Saturday’s second day, ‘Opportunity Cheshire’, highlighted some of the life, skills and career opportunities that Cheshire and Warrington can offer.
Celebrate Cheshire received widespread backing from the county’s business community, local authorities, Cheshire and Warrington’s new Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), as well as the education and voluntary sectors.
The Duke of Kent officially opened the event after visiting the exhibition village, where he viewed the various stands and displays presented by some of Cheshire’s most successful companies.
The inward investment drive received a substantial boost on the eve of the expo, with the announcement of 200 new jobs for Ellesmere Port. Regatta, the UK’s largest outdoor and leisure clothing specialist, revealed large-scale plans for a major distribution centre in the town.
Speakers on the first day included John Timpson, chairman of Timpson Ltd; Andrew McLaughlin, chairman of the Regional Economic Forecasting Panel; Dr Teresa Anderson, director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre and Simon Waugh, executive chairman of the National Apprenticeship Service.
Private-sector-led, the event had the backing of more than 50 locally-based blue chip companies and organisations, including M&S Money; Birchwood Park, Warrington; Bentley Motors; Grosvenor; Abode Hotels; Barclays; the Manufacturing Institute; Manchester Airport; Warrington Wolves; Pochins; Mornflake and Urenco.
Taste of Cheshire showcased 20 speciality food producers from the county.
Chris Brown, chief executive of Marketing Cheshire, said: “The fact that HRH The Duke of Kent has taken an active interest in the region, its businesses and our plans to drive economic growth is a great endorsement.
“This is just the start of a journey in creating confidence about our own businesses, the range of economic activity as well as the high level of regional enterpreneurship and partnership working.
“We were giving a snapshot of what is taking place in Cheshire.
“It was great to see the three councils working together in flagging up the rich offer that our economy has.
“My own feeling is that we have got to take that message outside our own boundaries to Whitehall, to business leaders across the UK that Cheshire is not some soft and fluffy county, there is real dynamism and hunger for success.
“In the past, city regions like Liverpool and Manchester have been more energetic in pushing their assets while Cheshire has been a little bit more sleepy in terms of talking about those things.
“Now we’re actually talking enthusiastically about the assets and opportunities in the county.”
Neville Chamberlain, chairman of Cheshire Business Leaders, said: “Cheshire and Warrington’s private sector felt a major event like this was needed to showcase all Cheshire has to offer and to promote the area to a wider audience.
“We believe there is a lack of awareness about the type of high-tech companies operating in the Greater Cheshire Region and the scale and quality that exists in sectors, such as manufacturing, logistics, innovation and science.
“We want investors and businesses to take a completely fresh look at the unique proposition Cheshire offers.”