A £multi-million investment programme, increasing private sector confidence and the ambition of its business community is putting Stockport town centre back on the economic map.
That was the overwhelming sentiment from the Economic event hosted by Orbit Developments and Greater Manchester Business Week/Manchester Evening News.
Held at Orbit’s flagship building Regent House, the event drew in 80+ of Stockport’s businesses to discuss developments and progress to date and challenges ahead.
Chairing was Business Editor Adam Jupp with help from a panel of experts including Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of Stockport Council, Tony Jones, Managing Director of Orbit Developments, Christian Mancier, former President of GM Chamber and partner at Gorvins Solicitors and Jo Shippen, Managing Director of Hatters Promotions.
Eamonn Boylan talked of creating momentum for change in Stockport. “Greater Manchester as a whole is doing well, but there is particular energy in Stockport which should be grounds for optimism. There is still much to do however.”
The Council is already on the ground with schemes like Stockport Exchange and RedRock plus the Town Centre Access Package.
Tony Jones, MD of Orbit, said that five years ago he made a decision to continue investing in the town, encouraged by proposed Council investment. “They gave us the confidence to spend money on our commercial property portfolio and back important initiatives and events that reacquaint people with what the town has to offer. We have reached the top of the hill in many ways and now it’s about maintaining that position. But there is a wonderful group of people here who are prepared to resource that. We are better connected to each other which makes people feel positive about a place.”
“There are customers in our buildings choosing here over Manchester city centre. That would never have happened five years ago. We are ticking the boxes for people.”
Orbit looks on target to break all occupancy records for the year. Orbit’s take-up of office space in Stockport town centre has averaged 17,000sq ft over the past 5 years, however the forecast for 2015 is 92,000 sq ft – over 5 times the usual figure.
Christian Mancier spoke about skills. “There are those companies who engage with the skills gap issue and those who don’t. We say to them get in amongst the workforce of tomorrow in Stockport’s further education colleges and shape them into what you need. “
Small business owner Jo Shippen of Hatters Promotions has recently moved her business into the town: She said: “I am Stockport born and bred and saw a buzz here which I wanted to be part of. Companies want to do business with other Stockport companies which we have directly benefited from and the location enables us to attract local young people and skill them up.”
Adam Jupp spoke of the Northern Powerhouse concept which should surely be helping the town. Eamonn Boylan again: “It’s taken a lot of courage to get this far and we will need plenty more to capitalise on what we have done.
We need to keep working hard to make sure Stockport has a voice and can attract the benefits of a Northern Powerhouse spotlight. It is still up to us to shape the future, but it’s certainly going in the right direction.”
Click here to view image gallery from the Stockport Economic Event.