Leaders in business, education and local government are joining together to produce a brand image for the Ashfield district.
A new vision for moving forward the district’s economy is to be driven by a story which explains what the district has to offer and captures the essence of the area.
That was the message at the launch of Ashfield’s New Place Story, which attempts to give a shared sense of purpose for the area created by those who want it to succeed.
Representatives from business, manufacturing education and the media told what they found compelling about Ashfield at the launch at Vision University Centre in Mansfield – and they urged others to come forward to adopt and develop the idea.
Opening the meeting, Phil Bramley, group editor of your Chad, said: “I have been delighted to be part of this important initiative which I truly believe will play a significant part in making Ashfield a destination to live and invest while making us all that extra bit proud of this fabulous place.
“Many people have commented Ashfield’s voice isn’t getting heard, that we don’t seem to have a simple story explaining what we are all about and what we are trying to achieve as a place; that there is no shared sense of ambition for Ashfield.
“What we do know is we need more jobs, better jobs and especially jobs for young people. To have any chance of achieving that, we need a stronger more compelling and competitive proposition of what the area has to offer – especially to businesses and investors.”
He said the approach was to understand what made the area special competitive and different to other places and bring it together in a new story every organisation and individual across the area can tell and be part of.
He said Ashfield had a combination of great communities, green spaces to enjoy and proximity and transport links to nearby cities for work and leisure and these were the themes to bring to the world’s notice.
Ashfield District Council is looking at creating a business improvement district for Ashfield, along the lines of one sucessfully implemented in North Nottinghamshire.
George Buchanan, chairman of North Notts Place Board, helped set up a similar branding exercise for the Bassetlaw area. He told of the place journey North Notts had undertaken to do something powerful and really think about the place “where we live work and play”.
He said: “We can’t be defined by our past and our geography – we have to shout about the things we have.
“Despite everything in the world pointing us to be individuals, sometimes we have to work together and we need the words to tell our story to the world.”
Louise Knott, Vision West Nottinghamshire College vice-principal, gave a speech highlighting the institution’s vital part in transforming the local economy – it now provides educational training to 26,000 students.
She said: “Mansfield and Ashfield is a place where we can attract internationally renowned business. It is a place where innovation thrives in small business, where a sense of community still holds very dear.
“It is a place where people hold their heads up high and are rightly proud of its industrial heritage, but are looking forward to a bright and prosperous future.
“It is timely then that we are here today to launch that story. We continue as a college to being committed to being central to that story, ambition, vision and confidence. We may be a national college, even an international one, but our roots and certainly our heart remain in Mansfield and Ashfield.”
Martin Rigley, chief executive of Sutton-based Lindhurst Engineering, said Ashfield was an excellent geographical location with good transport links, but said the greatest asset of the area was its people.
He said: “They have a fantastic can-do attitude. Lindhurst has a reputation for difficult technical challenges that need a lot of innovation.”
He said, since the 2008 financial crisis, businesses in Ashfield had prove to be resilient, with the growth of innovative businesses with the potential to be global leaders, adding: “We really need to start to tell the wider world business is not just alive in Ashfield, it is thriving.
“Having a award-winning further education college on our doorstep and three great universities within 30 minute of where I live is fantastic.
As a former mining electrical engineer, he said the area must not forget its mining heritage, but that it was time to move forward and embrace new challenges.
He said: “When you consider the can-do attitude of people in Ashfield, the growth of knowledge-based businesses, its geographical location great connectivity and its heritage, I can safely say things look great from over the brook.”
Ashfield is close to Sherwood Forest, Clumber Park, Newstead Abbey and the Peak District. It has a rich historical cultural and sporting heritage.
It is already home to major brands such as Rolls-Royce, Parker Knoll, Pendragon and L’Oréal.
The M1 is a major factor in driving investment, particularly around junction 28 where there was land for development opportunities.
Phil Bramley, Chad group editor, pictured,said: “We want to make sure as many businesses and organisations can get involved and create a movement to profile Ashfield.
“We are looking to create a leadership group to champion this new approach and to help us get even more support and momentum behind promoting Ashfield.
“The Tour of Britain passes through the area in September and we want to maximise the opportunity that will provide to get our story out.”
Robert Orgill, property manager at Hucknall-based Rolls-Royce said the firm had announced a £150 million investment programme of which £20m was being channelled to the Hucknall plant.
The company has said there will be no compulsory redundancies for manufacturing and the investment will set down roots for the East Midlands for the next 15 years.
Praising the reliability of the workforce, he said the company was working with Ashfield District Council for the regeneration of surplus land, which was swiftly progressed for a business park and about 900 new homes.
Mr Orgill said Ashfield District Council was a small authority and despite its limited and stretched resources it is accessible engaged and welcoming to business.