Lincoln Economic Forum: Making the ‘wow factor’ work
Lincoln must be more confident and open-facing towards the rest of the Midlands – that was the message from TheBusinessDesk.com’s Lincoln Economic Forum, held yesterday morning (6 November) at the Doubletree by Hilton in the city.
An expert panel told an audience of 70 business leaders from across Lincolnshire and beyond that the foundations are in place for Lincoln to become a huge success story over coming years.
Lydia Rusling of Visit Lincoln told the audience that the city’s renonwed tourism industry can work hand-in-hand with local businesses to progress the region. She said: “Last year we saw the city’s tourism offer experience its biggest-ever increase in value to the economy, but on the business front we still seem to be lacking in news stories. We still have some way to go.
“We must use the strengths of Lincoln’s tourism offer to harness the city and county’s business potential.”
The panel – and audience – was sceptical of the Midlands Engine project, despite recognition that the Team Lincolnshire delegation at property show MIPIM had done some great work in promoting the city and region to the rest of the world.
Rob Richardson of St Modwen, which is developing its Network 46 scheme just outside of Lincoln, said: “The Midlands Engine covers a huge region from Grimsby to Hereford and so the question is: how do businesses relate to it? However, what the Midlands Engine does is give the region an identity – it’s now up to Lincolnshire businesses to decide how they engage with that.”
A show of hands in the audience revealed a decidedly cool reaction to the Midlands Engine project, with not one person saying they thought Lincolnshire would benefit from it.
For Paul Edwards of Lincoln manufacturer James Dawson, one of the biggest success stories in Lincoln is the continued growth of the university. He said: “It helps keep the city alive, the nightlife economy is booming and businesses will see the growth of the university as a big reason to move here. However, the key is to retain the best graduates so that local businesses have access to talent.”
Richardson agreed, adding: “The amount of regeneration that the university has brought to the city is testament to its importance, as well as the successful night time culture and for employers it’s now a vital part of the city’s offer.”
Talked turned to the future, and for Dominik Jackson of developer Jackson & Jackson, Lincoln needs to up its tech game. He said: “We’re trying to nurture a tech platform in the city. This will help with graduate retention – but the future is bright. We see a Council that is very open-minded in Lincoln and tries to make things work. When we talk to people, we often hear them say that Lincoln is in the middle of nowhere, but when they get here the first thing they often say is ‘Wow!’.