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Spring 2019This is Rochdale

Interview with Paul Dixon, Chairman of This is Rochdale

‘This is Rochdale’ is an independent organisation that promotes Rochdale as a destination for business. Its Ambassador programme supports Rochdale’s strategy to encourage inward investment, stimulate local pride and attract talent, by utilising the national networking activities of well-connected business people from across the borough.

Paul Dixon, chairman of ‘This is Rochdale’, and a partner at Molesworths solicitors, spoke to Real Rochdale about his ambitions for ‘This is Rochdale’ and its network of ambassadors.

What is the new project about?

We want to encourage investment and pride within the borough. The group is a voluntary association made up of members of the local business community, and representatives from Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) . It is those business leaders that join us that are our Rochdale Ambassadors, this is what our members are called.

What are your objectives?

Our objectives as a group are simply to promote Rochdale as a destination for business and primarily to promote Rochdale to people and organisations outside of the borough as a destination for business.

We feel the best people to promote Rochdale are the businesses, as there a huge number already here that are successful. Their role is to be ambassadors for Rochdale and to communicate to businesses thinking of relocating, to say: “Come and see Rochdale, it is a great place to do business.”

Our location is important – on one side of the borough we have fantastic motorways, we have Metrolink to Manchester, and business parks with a lot of demand. On the other side of the borough, we have fantastic countryside and it is no more than five minutes away from the centre.

We have got a huge amount of development going on in the town centre, which will bring a lot of new people into Rochdale. The retailers that have already signed up for the shopping complex are good household names and very strong businesses, the likes of which will attract a lot of shoppers. The leisure facilities will be first rate; it is next to the transport interchange, so you can step off the bus and tram and go straight into the centre.

We have a project to refurbish the Town Hall, which is going to take time, but when finished it will be even more spectacular than it already is.

Around the borough, we have lots of leisure facilities, for example Hollingworth Lake which has produced Olympic standard rowers and sailors. We have a variety of sports clubs that play to a very high level in both local and national leagues, such as Rochdale Football Club, the rugby clubs, hockey clubs and cricket clubs.

We also have great restaurants and bars; a lot of people don’t realise how many good places and locations there are in Rochdale.

If it comes to hard commercial decisions for businesses wanting to relocate, the cost of commercial real estate, whether it be offices, factories or warehouses, is more competitive in Rochdale than it is in many places around us. We have got great housing developments and a lot planned, which is more affordable than other places. There is so much going for Rochdale at the minute and that is what we intend to prove.

What success has there been encouraging businesses to relocate here?

We work closely with RDA and the Council, who are doing a fantastic job with a whole host of new businesses that have come into the town. An example of a high-profile business that has come to Rochdale is Tetrosyl, which has refurbished a large office space that was empty for a long time.

How do businesses benefit by joining ‘This Is Rochdale’?

An important part of what we do is bringing local businesses together. We are committed to giving value back to them for the time and effort that they give to us.

Every quarter or so we organise an event for our ambassadors, where we introduce them to speakers who can add value to their business and the way they perceive themselves. At our formal relaunch in March 2018, over 100 local businesses attended. At each event we will provide an update on developments across the borough which our ambassadors will hear directly from the Chief Executive of Rochdale Council, Steve Rumbelow.

Why are ambassadors important to ‘This Is Rochdale’?

As leaders of successful Rochdale businesses, our ambassadors can share their experiences and tell others why it is such a great destination for business.

By way of example, the government has provided a fund, available to businesses as grants to help them improve their manufacturing processes and in particularly digitalise them as much as possible. This initiative is called ‘Made Smarter’.

The UK CEO of Siemens is one of the leaders of it. The project is aimed at the North West and one of our ambassadors, Richard Hagan, of Crystal Doors, spoke at the launch event in Liverpool in November.

This Is Rochdale, with our ambassadors, will be putting on an event, in conjunction with RDA, to tell local businesses about the ‘Made Smarter’ initiative and the funding available to local businesses. This is an example of how we go outside of the borough and bring knowledge back to benefit local businesses.

If our businesses are able to evolve and improve, then that in itself will attract other similar businesses into the borough. We want to help the town develop a positive identity.

Why do you think it is important that Rochdale’s identity is developed?

We have a proud history and throughout this history, Rochdale has had various aspects that have provided a unique identity; the most obvious being the cooperative movement starting here at the Pioneers Museum. Rochdale was also very much a part of the industrial revolution when textiles were brought in.

We are a borough that sits very much on its own in Greater Manchester, so we have our own identity geographically, and it’s important that we maintain that identity moving forward.

Developing this identity gives everybody within the borough an opportunity to identify with the town and take pride in it.

The amount of pride that most people in Rochdale have for the place they call home, whether it be for their business or the place that they live, should not be underestimated.