23 February 2014
I heard recently Salford won Grimmest place in the UK.
Now you might have been able to argue this 25 years ago. I was seventeen when I arrived in Salford. I didn’t have a plan just a head full of dreams. Some might argue nothing much has changed there, but one thing has for sure and that is the great city of Manchester, Salford and the surrounding areas.
It’s interesting when someone says something negative about a place or a person. I always look at what motivates people and what fuels their negativity.
I can speak from experience as someone who was there on the night Salford Quays was presented in the Midland Hotel. I was the piano player on an extended break at the back of the room listening intently.
I had no idea how I was going to be a part of the revolution that was bubbling away, but I was damned if I was going to sit back and watch from the sidelines.
25 years later, wow, what a city.
Visually, it’s unrecognisable. It’s a city with everything you could ever want.
But where will we be in 25 years time?
Where will Manchester rank in the UK and internationally?
A city doesn’t grow on its own. It is the culmination of a myriad of decisions made from the influencers within it. It takes courage to do things differently and that is something I believe the people of Manchester can say with pride.
Make good decisions and the city grows in the right direction. Make poor decisions and a town or city will stagnate.
25 years ago, Birmingham was the 2nd city in the UK but Manchester is undoubtedly the fastest developing community outside of London.
I believe Manchester’s growth is about to take on a whole new life of its own now that the internet plays such an integral part in the world of commerce these days.
People are bored of commuting, overcrowding, expensive accommodation, queuing. A city like Manchester has so much more to offer the community. Better travel, and better value for money.
I am not saying all the decisions have been perfect. The Trafford centre has taken a chunk out of city shopping which inevitably damages the local economy. It’s also impacted even more significantly on smaller towns and communities like Altrincham. But if you will charge people to park and make a place harder to access, people will vote with their feet. Peel saw this opportunity and took waste land and took advantage of the disgruntled shoppers. Sadly, we made it easier for people to shop elsewhere.
What we have to do is learn from those mistakes and ensure that the quick wins of parking fines don’t impact on the long-term financial gain of the business community.
With the right leadership and continued great decision-making there is no reason why we can’t make Manchester the UK’s number one city.
I know this is a far cry. However, the BBC have moved and look at the international brands knocking on the door. The city is hosting some of the largest websites in the UK, all from datacentres in Trafford Park. People have already started moving here, they just didn’t know it.
If we can tidy up the fibre and connectivity problems across the city, taking a leaf out of progressive cities like Amsterdam, we could have the most connected city in the world, making Manchester the world’s most sought after realestate to set up and trade from.
We have already connected Manchester to London in a nano second. The rest is just about coordination. The present system is appalling and a decade later we are no further on in spite of a great deal of rhetoric and millions invested from local government.
So if you are up for it, if you want to make Manchester the centre of the UK, it’s up to you. You, as someone in our city, have to get behind the project and believe that it is possible.
Before you dismiss the idea, consider this. The internet works by connecting people together. Show me another major city in the UK which is more central than Manchester. There isn’t one. We are already perfectly placed to win this race. The rest is just down to the effort and decision making of you, the business community and the council.
All we need is everyone to start supporting each other. We need to start buying locally and support our neighbouring businesses. We need to strengthen an already extraordinary business community and nobody, no politician, can stop Manchester fulfilling her destiny.
If one man can build the Trafford Centre, we as a group can build the greatest city on the planet. Are you with me?
Written for The Business Week, Manchester Evening News