Stand Up For Southport column: City requires to diversify organization base to long term-proof its economy

An aerial watch of Southport, together with the Marine Lake, King’s Gardens, the Marine Way Bridge and Bliss Resort. Photograph: Sefton Council

By Tony McDonough

Southport desires to diversify its small business foundation if it is to long run-evidence its economy in opposition to long term financial shocks such as the COVID-19 disaster.

Rachel Fitzgerald, chief government of Southport BID, is looking to start off a conversation all over transforming the town.

With tourism and leisure its range one financial driver, Southport has taken a huge hit from the pandemic. Rachel believes variety is the key to future prosperity.

Her check out is shared by business leaders and pros in the city who say a transform in the local demographic and a huge target on capabilities and investment are crucial to the town’s long term financial advancement.

In early November it was discovered Southport was applying for £50m from the Government’s City Deal Fund. If thriving, this could unlock new expenditure of up to £400m.

As well as new leisure projects there is a plan to construct a new waterside company convention centre and develop new hubs for small organizations.

Rachel’s watch is backed by two of the town’s primary professionals, Alex Hatchman, chief govt of regulation firm Fletchers and commercial home law firm Tony Coates, a partner at one more practice, Napthens.

Alex Hatchman

Alex Hatchman

Alex is reasonably new to the town, having grown up in Wirral, though Tony is Southport born and bred but has put in time operating in other areas, like quite a few decades in the centre of Manchester.

Though not a law firm herself, Alex runs Fletchers Solicitors which employs all around 500 people at its head office environment in Southport and an additional department in Manchester. The firm was started by Rob Fletcher in 1987 as a regular high avenue full-company practice.

Mr Fletcher commenced to specialise in personalized injuries statements arising from bike mishaps and afterwards included healthcare negligence to the firm’ specialisms. The latter now accounts for an equal share of the practice’s caseload.

Alex’s qualifications is in enterprise consulting and she used 15 many years doing work at an executive level in the retail sector. She labored for substantial road giants such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco in the British isles, and also Coles in Australia.

“I was appointed to the board of Fletchers as a non-govt director in 2016,” Alex said.

“But it wasn’t prolonged ahead of I moved into an govt purpose at the organization. I turned the main executive in September. There was anything about Fletchers I just fell in adore with. I felt that it experienced a noble mission to enable people today rebuild their life.

“I’m not a lawyer – I am a organization human being functioning a business. But I have a real enjoy for the law and I want to enable adjust the experience that men and women have when they appear to us for assistance.

“The legislation is this sort of an important foundation of society and we have to make sure it is available to individuals when they will need it. But the regulation is antiquated in a lot of methods and doesn’t usually serve individuals as it ought to.”

Equivalent to many men and women in Merseyside, Alex has delighted reminiscences of visiting Southport as a baby.

She stated: “It was flourishing then but it is unfortunate to see how that has transformed more than the a long time. That is why I am fired up about the Town Deal Fund bid and imagine that could be a sport-changer for Southport.”

Alex believes true modify is nicely inside of Southport’s grasp, but that difficult perform may well lay in advance.

She defined: “A put these kinds of as Southport can remodel alone and diversify its offer, rising sectors these kinds of as expert providers or inventive and electronic sectors.

“However, there is also a huge challenge in performing that. You will need to aspire to actually higher expectations and generate the correct to present those people new services.

“The solutions economic system is now so competitive and, in a digital planet, organizations do not have to be about the corner. Geographical boundaries have diminished, so you are now competing on a a great deal much larger scale.

“Demographics is a different region where we want to see adjust. Southport is ordinarily a put exactly where several men and women occur to retire. And it is a stunning place to do that but we also want to persuade young folks to keep and relocate to the town to adjust the combine.

“And that sales opportunities on to techniques. Corporations need to have a steady offer of men and women with the suitable skills to expand. That will inevitably guide to folks coming below from other locations and we also require to supply schooling to our youthful people so they can just take entire advantage of the options economic progress will provide.”

She said that Fletchers aims to be at the centre of that expansion story, introducing: “We have felt the impression of COVID as all organizations have, But, as a organization, we are extremely resilient and when some firms have experienced to reduce back again on workforce we are cautiously recruiting.

“We have a truly assorted group in this article and we enhance just about every other. We want to mature but we are not pushed by sizing, we are pushed by a mission … to provide superb assistance to all of our buyers.  If we appear following our clients and our personnel the company will glimpse right after itself.”

Tony Coates

Tony Coates

Business home attorney Tony Coates believes the basic shifts in functioning lifestyle taking position as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic offer you a enormous prospect for Southport.

Tony is a associate at North West law firm Napthens, which opened its office in Southport four many years back. It begun with just four staff members and has since elevated this variety to 15.

In the last few weeks it has recruited an affiliate solicitor specialising in relatives legislation and a solicitor and professional authorized assistant in the commercial home section. The business has also seen a few additions to its residential conveyancing section.

Tony grew up in the town and has used a substantial time functioning in other parts of the North West, including several yrs in Manchester metropolis centre. COVID-19, and the enforced homeworking revolution, has sparked conversations in massive firms about how a great deal room they definitely want in metropolis centres.

“I believe a whole lot of issues will change pursuing COVID-19. Several firms are searching at their preset expenses and inquiring queries these kinds of as ‘how will remote doing the job operate on a prolonged-expression foundation?’ and ‘do we still require so a great deal business office room?’,” said Tony.

“They are inquiring no matter whether they continue to need huge offices in town centres. They may well be hunting at working further out or perhaps closer to exactly where their personnel are dwelling.

“The get the job done/lifetime equilibrium has never ever been so critical. For the duration of the past couple months I have worked from dwelling a good deal and this has specified me the opportunity to see my two younger sons a whole lot extra than I did earlier.

“I labored in Manchester for a several many years and it is not a little something I would want to go back again to. There arrives a place when the commute and the hustle and bustle starts off to get on prime of you. If you glance all-around Southport, it is a really great place to be. Possibly we need to have to see this massive improve in society as an possibility for the city.

“Leisure and tourism are so significant to Southport but substantially of that business is seasonal. Presented the shock to the overall economy we have found in the previous couple months now appears to be as very good a time as ever to imagine about broadening Southport’s economic climate and searching to mature new business sectors in the town.”

Tony claims growing the range and style of enterprises in Southport would gain everyone and could direct to much more much larger specialist firms, this kind of as Napthens, setting up a base in the city.

He discussed: “Napthens delivers a very various proposition to a amount of legislation companies in and around the Southport space. We fill a gap in the sector that exists in between substantial road general practitioners and the top tier regulation corporations that work in huge cities.

“We spend a whole lot of time with our shoppers being familiar with the challenges that they encounter and their lawful requirements. In turn, we deliver a answer that provides our area enterprises access to professional legal awareness in respect of a broad selection of business challenges.

“Southport does now have a substantially additional plainly outlined skilled neighborhood but it is continue to taking part in catch-up. Up right until about a few or four years in the past there was not a good deal of engagement. Now we have networking teams with the purpose of bringing men and women alongside one another on a typical basis.

“Of training course an critical aspect of networking for all of us is to get ourselves in entrance of other firms so we can encourage our providers. But I imagine it is about a great deal far more than that. Building relationships in business enterprise is so critical. I grew up in Southport and it is a little something I really feel passionate about.”

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