Thursday, 15 December 2016

Celebrating 2016 and looking forward to 2017

There is no doubt that 2017 will be a tumultuous year politically, with Brexit being top of the agenda. No-one knows what is around the corner and how our break from the European Union will look or indeed affect us – internationally, nationally and locally.

Chesterfield has benefitted from much EU funding over the years, recent examples include assisting major developments like Markham Vale and Chesterfield Waterside to finally get off the ground. It is important that we keep the momentum of the town’s major new developments going in 2017 and beyond.

We have the opportunity to enhance Chesterfield’s position on the international commercial map, however this must be a collective effort, by everyone including councillors, politicians, businesses and, most importantly, the community. Everyone has a role to play in promoting Chesterfield and attracting investors.  Whether holidaying at home or abroad tell people how great our town is.

When you live and work in the same town it’s all too easy to forget about the positives. There’s a saying ‘when you can’t see the wood for the trees,’ and I think many of us are guilty of this. When you visit the town centre take time to see the variety of shops that we have, our market, the market hall and the historic Shambles shopping area. When compared to other towns and cities, Chesterfield has excellent shop occupancy rates, so much so that the town centre was identified as an ideal place for retail investors in a recent national property report.

Ask yourself this-If we, the people who live and work here, run our town down on social media and in conversations, will investors want to come to Chesterfield, spend their money and create more jobs and opportunity?

Look at what has been achieved in 2016 alone – Chesterfield’s new University of Derby campus was unveiled at St Helena’s, work has started on Chesterfield Waterside, plans for Northern Gateway were approved, Great Bear announced it was to build a second distribution unit at Markham Vale creating 800 jobs, and it was revealed that the town’s railway station will be a spur on the HS2 route.

Let’s make a collective New Year’s resolution to be positive about our town and celebrate everything that we have achieved and what 2017 will bring. I am particularly excited by the Chesterfield Waterside, Peak Resort, Northern Gateway and Elder Way developments and, of course, the canal restoration, all of which will make headway in 2017. There is so much potential in our town. Together we can make Chesterfield great.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Growing businesses

Chesterfield’s businesses were put under the national spotlight in July when BBC Radio 5 Live came to town on the back the latest GDP figures which were up across the board. And Chesterfield’s story wasn’t any different.

If you were listening on 27 July you’ll have heard business reporter Colletta Smith interview Nick Ibbotson from Ibbotson’s Fresh Produce, Stuart Downing from Casa Hotel, James Brand from United Cast Bar and Russ Gratton from Recon Electrical – all Chesterfield businesses. I’m delighted to say that all of them – including the customers at Recon Electrical - had the same story to tell; that business in the last quarter had been good.

People want to come to Chesterfield for work and pleasure, Casa’s figures bear this out. It has had more than 2000 bookings this year and already has people booked for 2017.

It’s a similar story in our town, employment is the highest it has ever been for the town since records began. However, we must keep this momentum going and not let the uncertainty brought about by the EU referendum result derail the town’s growth and future.

We need to be sure we don’t talk ourselves into a recession. Chesterfield is in a strong position with major developments, like Markham Vale, well underway and already creating hundreds of jobs. The Great Bear distribution centre is soon to open at Markham Vale and will create a further 400 jobs this year.

We’re a town of entrepreneurs and time and time again we show how we can adapt, change and overcome. Nowhere was that more evident than at the recent judging for the Food Producer of the Year title in the 2016 Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards. It was full of surprises – a micro herb producer from Whittington Moor, a smoke and cured meat specialist from Bolsover, a smoothie and juice producer from Tupton and a honey producer from Clowne, to name but a few.

Without exception every entrant was an owner managed business, many of them tucked away in Chesterfield quietly getting on with their daily business and supplying produce locally, regionally and nationally.

I’m delighted that Chesterfield Borough Council is helping town’s entrepreneurs even further with its latest plans for Northern Gateway. It has announced it will be building a business enterprise centre on part of the Donut car park for start-up and small and medium sized businesses.

The Council’s Dunston and Tapton Innovation Centres already have a great track record for incubating and nurturing business and I for one am delighted that Chesterfield is able to look ahead and continue with its plans for growth and prosperity even in these times of uncertainty.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Lots to celebrate already in 2016

As we enter February we are reminded that the Christmas period is well and truly over; diets have gone out of the window and many of us have turned our backs on our well-intended New Year resolutions. All in all it’s a pretty dreary month, and this prompted me to dig a little deeper and find some positives; I really didn’t have to look very far - specifically to the brand new £12m Queens Park Sports Centre.

I was privileged to see the new Queens Park Sport Centre at a recent Chesterfield Champions breakfast event, 24 hours before it was officially opened by the Coronation Street celebrity Kym Marsh. Like her, I was extremely impressed with the outstanding facilities, it truly is a gem in Chesterfield’s crown.

The breakfast event started at 7:30am and the centre was already buzzing with people using the new facilities and queuing to sign up for membership. What an amazing community resource.-it was fantastic to witness the hard work of the many people who have made the new Queens Park Sports Centre happen. A big ‘thank you and well done’ to all those involved!

At the breakfast even the hot topic on everyone’s lips was, of course, the proposed devolution involving Local Councils; with the subject being debated nationally, lots of questions were asked about what it means for Chesterfield. I for one see devolution as a positive, there is already a deal from Sheffield City Region on the table for Chesterfield which will bring us a share of £900m funding for local projects, including infrastructure and regeneration.

Devolution means, ultimately, that we can have more control over things that we want for our Town at a local level rather than Whitehall making the decisions for us. Devolution will impact all our lives and I urge you to have your say now. Get involved and have your voice heard before any decision is made that will affect all our futures long-term. You can find more information about this issue on the Destination Chesterfield website.

Devolution is something that will no doubt be a key topic at our annual Celebrate Chesterfield event taking place at the Winding Wheel in March. For those of you that don’t know, Celebrate Chesterfield is the hottest ticket in town and each year it’s getting even bigger and better.

I enjoy this event because it’s a great opportunity to look back and see how far we have come since the creation of Destination Chesterfield in 2011. At last year’s event we announced that £1bn of regeneration was taking place in the Borough-who knows what good news this year’s Celebrate will bring? What I do know is that it’s going to be good!
Great things are happening in our small town of which we should all be proud. Celebrate Chesterfield is the opportunity for us all to stand back, take stock and give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back for what we have collectively achieved as a Town, and to look forward to the future with confidence.

You too can share in the success of Chesterfield. The event is free to attend; simply register at

Friday, 1 January 2016

Have your say in 2016

Happy New Year to all readers! Well it’s the New Year but certainly not a new start for Chesterfield. Many of the Town’s developments are underway and will be making significant progression in 2016, so we have so much to look forward to and we have hit the ground running.

We go into 2016 with a confident buzz about the town Big changes are afoot, not only for Chesterfield but for Sheffield City Region which the town is a part of.

Devolution is the hot topic on everyone’s mind and from my own perspective it would greatly benefit Chesterfield and the region because it will give the Town a seat at a more influential ‘local’ table, not to mention more control over our own financial affairs.

It could also help bring potential funding to the area further boosting our ambitious plans for growth and development in the area over the next 10 years. Ultimately, devolution will allow us to have more money and decision-making powers as well as greater control over skills and transport improvement and job creation as well as increase the number of new businesses.

Local control of our ambitions and plans is very important, rather being made in London, where they are now. London is a very different economy to ours – just think of house prices, salaries and transport, and therefore needs to be treated differently. .

I would urge all local residents and businesses to take part in the consultation. Chesterfield’s position within Sheffield City Region means we do a lot of business with neighbouring towns and cities and it is important that we have control of the direction of our future which will affect young people and the jobs that are available to them when they leave school.

2016 will see the opening of the new University of Derby Campus in Chesterfield, bringing more opportunity to young people in an around the town, specifically in nursing, Business, Computing, Law, and Engineering. The latter, I feel, is s exciting for Chesterfield as it is a field the town has developed a specialism. This is rightly so when you consider that one of the godfathers of engineering and inventor of The Rocket, George Stephenson, made Chesterfield his home.

The coincidence that Chesterfield is involved in a 21st Century ‘rocket’ can’t be overlooked. Bloodhound is the British-built car that will be attempting the world land speed record in October 2016 and Chesterfield-based industrial weighing specialists Weightron Bilanciai Ltd has supplied the weighing systems that have been used throughout the build of the project.

So, when you see Bloodhound – or more likely the trail of vapour it will leave in its wake travelling at 1000mp - on the flats of South Africa later this year, be proud in the knowledge it carries a little bit of Chesterfield and is helping spread our town’s reputation for quality engineering and manufacturing all over the world.

With all that and more, what a great year we have ahead of us! I hope you will join me in celebrating and recognising our achievements on 16th March at Celebrate Chesterfield

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Chesterfield has a Prosperous Year

What a prosperous year Chesterfield has had and our employment figures bear this out. For the first time since records began the town’s unemployment figures fell below the national average in August.

I do believe that this year has been a turning point for the town, with so many developments in the pipeline totally more than £1billion of investment taking place within the Borough over the next 10 years. Much of this investment is already underway with contractors on site at Peak, Chesterfield Waterside and Markham Vale. Following the competition of the first phase of housing at Chesterfield Waterside, 2016 will see work on the exciting second phase begin.

The marketing and hard work during 2015 has paid off, as I believe that Markham Vale Business Park has become the go to destination for national and international investors relocating here and creating hundreds of jobs with more set for next year. I personally find this very exciting for the Chesterfield’s young people as it is giving them more choice and opportunity. Ahead of these exciting developments, Destination Chesterfield has worked hard through the Made in Chesterfield festival to raise awareness of the jobs and careers available in the manufacturing sector so that companies relocating and expanding here have a ready and able workforce now and in the future.

As well as all the developments already underway, hopefully, 2016 will see plans for the former Co-op department store take shape and become a reality. The redevelopment of such an iconic town centre building has the potential to enhance the town’s offering, helping us attract further town investment and make us the go to destination for shoppers and tourists.

There is no doubting the development potential of Chesterfield but it’s also important to recognise what is already here – the hundreds of independent businesses that have weathered the economy and survived and many of these were honoured at the Chesterfield Retail Awards and Food and Drink Awards this year. Both awards were our most successful yet with more nominations received than ever before and each award ceremony larger than the previous year yet still a sell-out. The events are now well established in the town’s social calendar and a great example of the many independent businesses that combine to make Chesterfield such a unique and going places town.

What a great year it’s been Chesterfield, let’s make 2016 even bigger and better. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

New future for Chesterfield Co-op store

More good investment news arrived in Chesterfield recently with the announcement that a planning application has been submitted to turn the former Co-op department store into a £20million hotel, restaurants and leisure development.

I am delighted that the potential of Chesterfield has, once again, been recognised by investors. It is large scale developments in the town centre such as this, coupled with our thriving independent sector, which will help make us a go to destination for shoppers and tourists.

November has been designated the month where we hope to do exactly the same for the town’s manufacturing sector with Made in Chesterfield.  The festival has two aims; to attract manufacturing and engineering companies to invest here and create jobs and to get more youngsters turned onto a career in manufacturing

Last year, Made in Chesterfield only ran for a week however it was credited with introducing more than 400 young people to careers within the sector. Building on this success, this year the festival is running throughout November.

Thanks to partnerships Destination Chesterfield has fostered with schools, companies within the sector, Derbyshire Education Business Partnership, Natwest, Chesterfield College, Derbyshire County Council, Chesterfield Borough Council, Placing Futures and Positive 4 Young People,  this year more young people than ever will discover first-hand the employment opportunities and the number of varied and exciting roles within manufacturing and engineering.

If your school, child or company would like to get involved with Made in Chesterfield, you can view the programme of events here 

Attracting young people to the sector is essential if Sheffield City Region (SCR) is to achieve its vision of developing a Modern Manufacturing and Technology Growth Area. Chesterfield’s Enterprise Zone at Markham Vale is already playing an important role in attracting investment to the area and events like Made in Chesterfield are contributing further in ensuring there is a ready workforce to enable SCR to achieve this vision.

We’re also taking a similar approach to the town’s hospitality sector through the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards. Without a ready workforce proposals for developments such as the Co-op would be a non-starter.

Each year, however, Destination Chesterfield partners with Chesterfield College to showcase the skills of the young people about to enter the hospitality sector. Not only does the College sponsor the awards, it provides the venue for the awards but, most importantly, its own students cater and serve the entire event.

After the success of last year’s awards evening at the College – all superbly catered and served by the students, it came as no surprise that tickets for the 2015 awards sold out weeks before the event, prompting us to increase numbers to the absolute maximum. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Made in Chesterfield

I read an article from job website CV-Library that said almost half of recruiters think that engineering is the hardest sector to place candidates in. The study suggested that engineering roles are the hardest for recruiters to fill, and a separate study highlighted an unrelenting skills shortage across the UK as a whole. And the picture is no different in Chesterfield, yet we have a thriving manufacturing and engineering sector here.
The study illustrated for me, yet again, how essential school leavers are for the future of Chesterfield, especially in the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Locally, we are outperforming the national average with manufacturing representing around 20% of the turnover of Sheffield City Region (SCR), and if we want this continue we need to attract a future workforce.

Recognising this, we hosted a week-long Made in Chesterfield festival last year which was designed to highlight the sector to young people and encourage them to consider a career in it when the leave school. It was hugely successful, introducing more than 400 young people to the sector.

Capitalising on this success, this year, we will be dedicating an entire month – November – to Made in Chesterfield. Expect to hear a lot from engineering and manufacturing companies you probably didn’t even know existed, let alone known what they do, during November. Many have been in Chesterfield for years, providing local jobs.
While unemployment locally now stands at its lowest level for three years, youth unemployment currently stands at 16%. We can all work together to make a difference to this.

We know festivals and initiatives like Made in Chesterfield and the Food and Drink Awards work in bringing together the education and business community; introducing them to each other and identifying career and employment opportunities.

Chesterfield College uses the Food and Drink Awards every year to show off the skills of their talented hospitality students at the awards ceremony. Each year the students not only make the food but also serve it and this year will be no different. It is restaurant quality food and service, adding a unique element to these popular awards. My mouth is already watering thinking of the awards ceremony which is once again being held at the College’s Heart Space Building at the end of October.

It’s important we work together to reduce youth unemployment in Chesterfield. Initiatives like Made in chesterfield and the Food and Drink Awards are just the tip of the iceberg. Young people want a job, a place to live and a thriving social scene and we have all that right here, we just need to open their eyes to it.