Champions Round Table
State of the Economy
Despite having a new Prime Minister at the helm, economic and political uncertainty underpins the UK.
Chesterfield, however, is renowned for bucking the trend. From retail figures to tourism, Chesterfield’s economy remains resilient in a difficult environment.
While Brexit may be damaging tourism nationally, the town’s ongoing regeneration has helped increase visitor numbers providing a £175 million boost to the borough’s economy. While the town’s shop vacancy figures remain some of the lowest in the UK.
In a move to combat some political uncertainty, Chesterfield Borough Council recently announced its decision to pull out of moves to join the devolution project which would see the government hand over power from London to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, which includes Chesterfield.
Explaining the decision Cllr Tricia Gilby, Leader of the Council, said: “I really had no confidence that the government could deliver devolution anymore. I think plans for devolution are going to be kicked into the long grass.”
Instead Chesterfield Borough Council has resolved to remain as a member of Derby Derbyshire Nottingham Nottinghamshire (D2N2) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
National political uncertainty, specifically Brexit remained as the top-of-the-list topics at this month’s round table to discuss the state of the economy.
Hosted by Industrial Ancillaries, this month’s round table, organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, brought together key business figures in Chesterfield to discuss what the future holds for the town and its economy.
AB – Ashley Booker – Head of Content, Derbyshire Times
AS – Adrian Sheehan – Head of Real Estate, BRM Solicitors
GN – Graeme Nash – Business Resilience and Growth Expert, BusinessWise Consultancy
IG – Ian Greenway – Managing Director, MTM Products
JD – Jamie Dennis – Managing Director, Industrial Ancillaries
MS – Matthew Southgate – Senior Economic Development Officer, Chesterfield Borough Council
NC – Nick Chischniak – Representation Manager, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire)
PW – Phil Walker – Branch Manager, Handelsbanken Chesterfield
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the local economy over the next 12 months and how do we maximise it?
PW – I think the biggest opportunity is the number of development projects that are planned. We have been talking about them for a long time, but when they come to fruition it could deliver lots of employment and investment opportunities.
DS – A number of sites are at various stages of delivery. Waterside is starting to get buildings coming out the ground which is brilliant news. Construction of the first 173 homes will start this summer. A planning application has been made for the first office block and, subject to that going through, it is set to be on site from the end of this year to early next year.
Then we’ve got Markham Vale, a site that has been doing brilliantly in terms of regeneration over the last few years.
GN – There is an opportunity to utilising the vacant shops in the town centre and turn them into offices.
MS – We have a really attractive town centre and it’s about creating an experience, not something that you can duplicate online. It also needs to be different to somewhere like Meadowhall.
AS – We do quite a lot of development management work with shopping centres owned by local authorities. Chesterfield is a step above others.
MS – HS2 would boost confidence with developers. There is real opportunity for the area around the railway station to really take off as a residential and a business location.
NS – I think we’ve got a really good mix of the old and the modern in Chesterfield. We are now actually starting to see things happen.
If you could pick one new policy for the new Prime Minister to introduce to boost the economy, what would it be?
PW – Over and above sorting out Brexit, I want to see a Prime Minister that is passionate about the northern half of the country. I want them to maximise the opportunities we’ve got from the great businesses at this end of the country, rather than having a country being driven by London and the South East.
IG – With Chesterfield being on the cusp of both the Midlands and the North, I think it’s important to not create a divide. The Midlands and the North have a natural allegiance and I think it’s important to join up rather than divide, with both infrastructure and the way we think.
NC – Business despises uncertainty. We really need someone to just come and give us the certainty we need.
JD – The industrial sector is definitely not what it was in Chesterfield and I don’t think it’ll ever go back to that. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing what we’re going to be doing and how we’re going to be trading with other countries. For us, it’s about getting certainty back and that will ease the markets in terms of currency.
IG – I feel like we’re moving into a world where uncertainty is the norm. I think we are going to have to get used to continuous change and be very nimble on our feet to respond to the opportunities and threats we’ll face. The only thing certain in the future, is uncertainty!
How do we encourage more people to start up businesses in North Derbyshire and create an environment where they can survive, thrive and grow?
AS – The quality of the employees we can bring to the town is a really important factor. We need to make sure we have the right school leavers, apprentices and graduates in the town. In a lot of the job interviews I do now, I find myself selling Chesterfield to the potential employee rather than the other way around.
JD – I think it depends on what sort of businesses we want to attract. Data connection is key. Maybe businesses of the future don’t want bricks and water, they might want fluid workspaces – the modern version of hotdesking.
GN – When you start up a business, you get a shock to the system mentally, physically and financially. Support, and easy access to it, is important. If entrepreneurs know that support is at their fingertips, people may be less fearful of failure and more inclined to start up their business.
MS – The council employs a business adviser caller Adrian Williamson who’s based at Dunston Innovation Centre, who will help businesses and point them in the right direction for support and grants.
NC – Going into schools and showing them examples of what can be done by people who have been there and done it is a good way to get that message out there that North Derbyshire is a great place to start up a business.
IG – A number of schools are starting to recognise that academic achievements are not the only marker of success and are engaging with businesses so that students can see for themselves how business operates. I hope this approach will encourage entrepreneurship in young people in Chesterfield.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund. The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent Board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit https://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/