The untapped business potential in north Northumberland and the Borders was highlighted to over 100 delegates at Berwick’s inaugural Investors’ Conference.
Both areas face similar challenges - the decline in manufacturing, the lack of professional services and below average wages - and they need to persuade business that it is a great place to live and work if regeneration efforts are to succeed.
Bryan McGrath, chief officer for economic development at Scottish Borders Council, addressed delegates at the conference in Berwick’s Guildhall telling them: “The quality of life is a huge selling point for our region but we have got to get people into the area so they know what we mean.” he said.
One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development on Scottish Borders Council, who said: “I don’t agree with the perception that the Scottish Borders and north Northumberland is a place to bypass.
“These are beautiful places to work and healthy places to grow yourself, your family and your business.
“Berwick faces similar challenges as we do across the border, such as part-time employment, small and microbusiness but we need to do our very best to maintain the quality of services being provided by small towns such as Duns, Chirnside and Eyemouth and not having to travel somewhere else. There are opportunities to build bridges and I hope this will be a start.”
Delegates were full of praise for the organisers of the Berwick event.
David Ainsley said: “I was delighted to attend. My impression was that it was a superb first attempt to project Berwick as a place in which to do business in the context of the Scottish Borders and the northern most outpost of The Northern Powerhouse.”
And one of the organisers, Berwick Town Councillor Eric Goodyer, is confident that Berwick will secure inward investment as a result.
“We will not be able to see real outcomes for months but business cards were exchanged and potential deals were being discussed.
“We are now getting requests from delegates asking to be put in touch with other attendees to discuss new partnerships.
“We have excellent road, rail and port links and are a strategic location to service Scotland and England. Scottish Borders Council wants to work closer with Berwick Town Council and Northumberland County Council to develop the Borders economy.
“So the message is we have the skills, the will to succeed, we have success stories and are a great place to invest.”