Chamber Chat - Mal Garnett

June 01, 2017 - 9:00am

Chamber Chat - Mal Garnett

Locally, I am referred to as an ‘offcomer.’ I come from Newcastle originally – but apparently, have a strange South African accent. So recently I felt very proud when I heard myself being referred to as ‘one of ours.’ After 15 years of living and working in Lancaster, it’s about time!

However, being an offcomer has its benefits too. I continue to see our region with a fresh pair of eyes, and there is one factor about North Lancashire that I constantly notice. When set against our enviable natural surroundings, you could say that our region is unparalleled in what we have to offer. We have a comprehensive foundation of retail, business and leisure services but - we lack variety. If we are to thrive, we need a wider offering. We also need to support the businesses that are already here.

Yesterday I was discussing a marketing strategy with a small local business who thought one of their USPs was being a ‘hidden gem.’ They prided themselves on not shouting about what they had to offer. Locally I find this is not uncommon. There are a multitude of great businesses hidden away in units, barns and buildings across the region. We need to make more of them. The North Lancs Expo is an opportunity to unite these whispering businesses into one larger voice and showcase them to a broader market. We all need to get involved.

I attended a dinner recently at Lancaster University with Minister Counsellor Mr JIN Xu from the Chinese Embassy – another offcomer. His visit was fleeting but listening to his speech and seeing Lancashire through his eyes reaffirmed to me the potential that this region has for building new opportunities further afield.

We work in precarious times, and we don’t know who our allies will be over the coming months. The Chamber is celebrating its 120th year and will keep on forging relationships in new directions. However, we can’t then afford to wait for 15 years before we accept those offcomers into the fold.