A DRAGON returned to his roots to breathe fire into a new initiative to support, promote and boost businesses in Rossendale.
The Rossendale Council led scheme ‘Invest in Rossendale’ was launched at The Riverside in Whitworth by Bacup-born Piers Linney.
An audience of 180 people listened intently as Piers outlined his career from failing his 11+ to succeeding as a millionaire investor.
He revealed how his passion for entrepreneurship arose out of the social and economic history lessons delivered by his high school teacher at Fearns Mr Beaumont.
Piers still returns to the Stacksteads school to inspire future generations and urged the business leaders to invest in the talent of today by providing opportunities within their companies.
The one-time investment banker, lawyer, star of the Secret Millionaire and Dragons’ Den, is now a director of the British Business Bank, which invests in small and medium sized businesses.
A keen mountain biker, he also mentioned that Lee Quarry and the proposed mountain biking trail head centre on Futures Park would become a great venue and wished that it was in place 20 years ago when he lived locally.
Piers said: “Rossendale is a great location and it has great connectivity and business opportunities. You can live in the countryside, but only be half an hour from the city.
“I have realised that your pound goes a lot further up here. It is a different standard of living, but to attract people there needs to also be something to do.
“We need to sell Rossendale as a product and market it as an amazing place to live, work, set up a business, for children to be educated and to raise a family. Then it would be the Golden Valley again.”
Rossendale Council leader Councillor Alyson Barnes outlined a series of corporate priorities across the borough to support economic growth.
These were town centres, attracting new businesses, supporting existing business growth, promoting the visitor and leisure sector and supporting unemployed and inactive residents into employment.
She said: “In the local plan we have 27 hectares of new employment sites. We have many excellent home-grown businesses and a lot have said they wanted to expand and stay in Rossendale, but we didn’t have the sites.
“It is important to me that those businesses can stay in Rossendale.”
A panel of business owners and councillors fielded questions from the audience.
Attending the event was Business Development Manager of Bacup’s Dansworks Dance Academy of Performing Arts Dale Connearn said: “It is essential that that the council back businesses as we want that kind of support to help us to grow and be able to take that next step.”
Rossendale Leisure Trust’s Facilities and Operations Manager at Marl Pits Mark Kay found Piers’ talk inspirational.
He said: “I think the most important thing is to develop the skill set of young people, which we do through our apprenticeship scheme.”
A new website www.investinrossendale.com and promotional Invest in Rossendale video were also presented at the event.
The council co-hosted the event with Valley at Work, which connects local businesses, and it was sponsored by Rawtenstall-based social enterprise the ekaH Foundation.