In this piece, in partnership with Wigan Council, we look at the opportunities available in the heart of the Northern Powerhouse
In his March 2015 Budget George Osborne re-asserted his wish to build a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ through strong regional investment.
One of the towns that’s starting to benefit from his commitment is Wigan. While it’s not a name that comes instantly to mind when you think about provincial enterprise, its prime location – close to both Manchester and Liverpool – means it is perfectly placed to grow into its own city of opportunity.
That’s why the town’s council is issuing the rallying cry “Wigan works”. And with a population of 318,700 (12% of Greater Manchester’s population), there is a lot of working potential to unleash. Additionally, with a transport infrastructure incorporating road, rail and air, the potential to attract more talent is growing – especially when the proposed HS2 links are completed.
And top entrepreneurial candidates have every reason to relocate to the city. Around 70% of the town’s 77 square miles are green and open space; and when combined with the surrounding historic villages it makes for one of the most desirable locations in the region.
But it’s not just the view that’s attracting both top talent and serious investment. There are around 12,000 businesses based in the town; many of whom are high-quality SMEs. And there is a wide diversity of industries on offer. Manufacturing is still a pillar of the local economy – but with the food and drink sectors being particularly strong, digital and creative, health, environment and professional services are all increasing in importance.
The largest private sector companies in the area are Heinz, Waterfields, AB World Foods, Hitchens/ Bakkavor and Arrow XL. Wigan also has a large number of public sector employers, the most notable being Wigan Council, NHS and Wigan & Leigh College.
Councillor David Molynuex, deputy leader of Wigan Council and portfolio cabinet member for regeneration, reveals that £4 million is being spent on infrastructure in the coming years – including on Haigh Woodland Park.
“The plans we have unveiled will put Haigh on the list of the top visitor attractions in the North West, creating jobs and restoring the hall for future generations to enjoy,” he said.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with a top quality organisation such as Contessa, they have a great track record of lovingly restoring buildings such as Haigh Hall and we’re excited about what they have planned.”
Funding and mentoring is available for entrepreneurs looking to start up in the area. The annual Business Expo provides great opportunities, along with the council’s access to funding through its ties with the burgeoning private sector.
All in all it’s a great time to visit a town at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse. Whether as an employee in one of the town’s existing companies or looking to branch out alone, Wigan really is open for business.