Business leaders welcome new Blackburn and Darwen ‘story’

Published Tuesday 22 March 2016 at 10:00

Business leaders have today welcomed a major initiative to help put Blackburn and Darwen firmly on the map as a place to work, visit, study and live.

The new Blackburn and Darwen ‘story’ was unveiled at a breakfast event for business leaders and public and voluntary sector organisations at Blackburn’s iconic Cathedral Quarter on Tuesday, March 22.

It is the culmination of 18 months’ work led by the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) – a multi-agency group that represents the diverse public, private and third sectors in Blackburn and Darwen – to understand and challenge stereotypical perceptions of the borough.

It aims to celebrate the area’s greatest strengths and assets and raise the profile of the place to encourage people to live, work and encourage opportunity and prosperity. The work has been prompted by the LSP’s Plan for Prosperity 2014-20, which identified image and marketing as a key priority.  You can see a progress update on this plan here. 

Around 200 people attended the event – all tasked with taking positive messages about Blackburn and Darwen out into Lancashire, the North West region and further afield to help put it firmly on the map.

Business leaders announced the next steps for promoting the place and leading efforts to make the area more attractive to business, investors and visitors.

This included a HIVE Ambassadors programme and new Place Board that will direct the work of the appointed Ambassadors.

Wayne Wilde, Commercial Director and Shareholder of Darwen-based WEC Group, one of the largest engineering and fabrication businesses in the UK with an award winning welding and engineering training academy, said:

We are a place that has industry, inventiveness, skill and hard work woven through our history and this is helping shape the jobs and economy of tomorrow.

We were one of the first industrialised towns in the world. James Hargreaves who lived here, invented the spinning jenny which was a major development in the industrialisation of weaving and this was an early example of the innovation and enterprise that has been a feature of the place ever since.

It’s not by accident that the motto for the town is ‘by skill and hard work’ and this is a metaphor for the ‘new Blackburn and Darwen’ as we look to galvanise the talent, energy and insight of our young people.

Cllr Phil Riley, Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “From a local authority perspective we’re tremendously excited about the potential of this initiative and fully supportive of it.

This is all about the place where we live and we’re delighted that it’s being led by our Local Strategic Partnership and in particular our colleagues in the business community. As a council we will be doing our best to ensure that all aspects of our work across the place is aligned behind this new approach and story.

We need to ensure our voice is heard, we need to influence and impress people, most of whom will never have been here, and we need to compete like never before. This new approach puts us on the front foot and I hope everybody will get behind this approach and show their support.

Khalid Saifullah, Chair of the borough’s HIVE network, said:

The business community of Blackburn with Darwen, with the full support of our public sector colleagues, is driving the changes needed to build a prosperous borough.

We realised that we needed to identify the assets and strengths that are fundamental to defining what we are all about; what makes this place and its people special and what makes it different.

At a time of limited resources, changing perceptions about a location and creating a positive brand image can’t just be about traditional marketing. There needs to be a new model of place leadership and place promotion where the private sector is empowered to take on a significant role, as this work benefits us as well as the place.

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