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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Firms work together to promote business

“INGRAINED knowledge” and a unique pride of place were among the assets praised at a major business summit in South Cumbria.

Dozens of businesses flocked to The Times Economy South Cumbria Business Forum, which was held in the Coronation Hall, in Ulverston.

Leading lights in the business world debated issues including broadband, transport and the skills of South Cumbrian workers at the event which will showcase the Ulverston business community across the UK.

Leading lights in South Cumbrian business formed a panel to extol the virtues of the area while addressing some of the major issues facing the region.

The panel, which included Greig Rooney, site director of GlaxoSmithKline, in Ulverston, MP for Barrow and Furness John Woodcock, Wayne Singleton, HR partner for Tronic (Siemens), Councillor Peter Thornton, leader of South Lakeland District Council, Al Mather, from the Centre of Leadership Performance, Marjorie Pickthall, from Furness College, Harry Knowles from Furness Enterprise and Peter Cotterill, managing director of Oxley.

Times journalist Mike Cowley, helped set up the event along with Archie Workman – chairman of Ulverston Business Alliance. Mr Cowley said: “What’s happening in this area is very interesting.

“It’s rural but there are high-tech firms.

“The town itself is so full of character.”

Cllr Thornton was one of the more vocal panellists and called for BT to be forced by government to upgrade broadband connections in the area.

The panel heard how firms including GSK and Tronic (Siemens) are working together and with schools in a bid to increase interest among school children in the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in a bid to create a richer recruitment pool.

Mr Rooney said: “The reason GSK came here 64 years ago was the land and water and people were highly skilled.

“64 years on and the criteria are the same.

“What I see in the workforce is something unique here – the people truly care.”

When asked about why Glaxo chose to build their new biopharmaceutical plant in Ulverston he added: “We can’t just go into another country.

“Ulverston has ingrained knowledge.”

Mr Singleton, who works for subsea connections firm Tronic, spoke about the partnership GSK to help deliver a schools programme in a bid to help keep some of South Cumbria’s most promising students in the area.

While MP Mr Woodcock said Cumbrian youngsters need to realise their is no limit to their ambition.

Mr Cotterill, managing director of Oxley, said the firm at one point his firm was paying £16,000 per year to secure a two megabit per second connection – when clients in the US had access to a connection 20 times as fast.

Cllr Thornton said: “Some people think the answer is to get the community digging trenches and I wouldn’t stop them but the real answer is with the government.

“They should take BT to one side and say you will do this or if not you will lose your licence.”

Speaking after the event Mr Rooney said: “As a large employer we have a responsibility to play a part not only as a business but in the community.

“We’re keen to get involved, particularly to build networks and create team work.”

Archie Workman, chairman of Ulverston Business Alliance, said: “This is a vehicle to get our message out to 250,000 influential people as well as those who take The Times.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the event.”

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