It’s not been a good week for Lancashire. The disappointing, though expected, announcement about the closure of Blackpool Airport was quickly followed by a BAE statement about the potential loss of around 300 jobs.
As we prepare for today’s Lancashire Growth Conference at Brockholes, the mood will be upbeat, but this double whammy will inevitably lead to a discussion about how firm the economic recovery is – particularly in this part of the world.
The challenge for county’s like Lancashire is to maintain profile and attract investment despite being in the middle of the two big city regions of Manchester and Liverpool. Losses of high paying, quality jobs are not part of the plan.
Nonetheless, the glass is still very much half full for Lancashire and the key for that to continue is private sector growth in the small and medium business sector.
The days when any area can or should rely on big employers such as BAE are long gone. They are ‘very nice to have’ but local economies need to be built on a diverse range of businesses, and inevitably the vast majority of those companies are more likely to employ 50 people than 550.
For a county that is blessed with some of the best hotels, restaurants and countryside in the UK, and sits on the doorstep of the Lake District, perhaps we need to be focussing a little more seriously on the tourist and hospitality sector? The professional services offer we have here is top class too, but our lack of ability in shouting about what we have got to the outside world continues to be a frustration to me.
Ruth Connor, the excellent head honcho of Marketing Lancashire, is doing her best to change this unfortunate psyche – but she needs our help and our support.
Being loud, bold and brash may not be the Lancashire way, but we need to develop a strong narrative and a more robust way of presenting the county if announcements such as those made this week are not to have a long term negative impact on our aims and objectives.