Sue Souter joined an influential group of business leaders recently to debate Stockport’s progress as a vibrant place to live and work and the overall impression was let’s keep going with what we have started. The mood was upbeat and positive in marked contrast to business panel sessions from a few years ago. Back then there would not have been a conversation about coming into the town to shop or enjoy a night out and it was a struggle to sell the idea of basing a business there. But now all that has changed.
Stockport is now attracting more than its fair share of exciting names and new businesses to the centre and recruiting good mid-career talent who see a life around the job – better environment, shopping and leisure facilities – within an easy commute from the town’s leafy suburbs. Stockport Exchange and public realm improvements around the station in general are a great example of this.
There was plenty of chat about the growth of new residential property – refurb and new build is going great guns – and we know from experience elsewhere that when that happens it changes the personality of a town for the better.
We also talked about the benefits of greater WIFI access – coming soon – and how we could better define areas like Stockport Exchange, the Old Town, Merseyway and Red Rock and signpost people to them to give everyone a richer experience of everything on offer.
Personal advocacy from business owners with operations at the heart of the change was cited as a key compliment to the physical improvements. We need to champion the new environment and invite people – family, friends, business contacts – to come see for themselves, said one attendee.
All agreed that ensuring people joined up their thinking and communicated well would be crucial in the next few years. Rhys Owen, Leasing Director at Orbit Developments summed it up:
“We have changed perceptions of Stockport for the better, without doubt, and people are now being drawn to its offer which makes it so much easier to convert them into business tenants, or new retailers, or residents or just visitors from out of town. But we need to keep going with all the necessary investment – time, money and energy – as the rewards are clear to see.”