More than 100 businesses gathered in Barrow to hear about Brexit, exports, Northern Powerhouse and important changes to the Federation of Small Business in the region.
Business representatives from across Cumbria and Lancashire gathered at the Abbey House Hotel to hear from its Furness Chairman Phil Collier and Barry Leahy MBE, managing director of Cumbrian-based global exporter of playground equipment, Playdale.
Mr Collier made a rallying cry to businesses gathered at Abbey House Hotel on Friday, to make the most the estimated £30-£40bn worth of investment coming to the region in the next decade or so, and to play a greater role in shaping the Northern Powerhouse initiative.
He also explained that, from January, the Furness branch of the FSB will cease to exist, as will the Lancashire and Cumbria Region in its current format. Instead, there will be a new Lancashire and Cumbria Area within a new, larger North-West Region operation.
Mr Collier will become the Leader of the new Lancashire and Cumbria. He added: “I hope that I can use my experience in Furness to raise the profile of the FSB over this wider area.
“I am passionate about the small business sector and it is vital, here and elsewhere in our Region, that the voice of the small business is heard and that they get every opportunity to become involved in local supply chains.”
On the changes, he added: “We should use these changes to provide us with a renewed focus so that, as we move forward, they will actually enhance our role in the local business sector.
“It is so important now that we develop similar links and relationships throughout Lancashire and Cumbria and I see this as absolutely critical in ensuring that we become more inclusive in this ‘thing’ that they call the Northern Powerhouse which seems to be focussing solely on the cities in what will become our new FSB North-West Region. We must not become its forgotten outpost.”
Businesses also heard from Mr Leahy, who shared the story of Playdale and how it now exports to more than 45 countries around the world. He shared tips and thoughts on companies preparing for Brexit.
“Brexit will be a process not an event,” he said.
“Being a global exporter, our risk is spread outside of Europe and we are doing very well in Asia, in fact our biggest installation to date is the outside the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing.
“We are planning for Brexit and we’re attending educational events to find out more, but I am surprised others are not.”
He added: “You just never know maybe our government will get savvy and set long term goals like Singapore did in the 1960’s when their GDP was 50% of ours (it is not 200%). They did this by dropping all their trade tariffs!”