OLDHAM has a strong heritage when it comes to enterprise.
From being King Cotton to the home of both Seton’s tubular bandage, the Lancaster Bomber, and the birthplace of the first test-tube baby, this borough’s timeline is marked with great examples of innovation and progress.
I am committed to ensuring that this strong tradition continues.
That’s why encouraging enterprise and business to thrive is at the heart of our 30 pledges for Oldham – and people of all ages here are, as always, rising to that challenge.
Our Enterprise Fund, helped by a £1m donation from another local entrepreneur Norman Stoller CBE, is designed to help boost our next generation of entrepreneurs by giving them a ‘hand up’ in getting new businesses off the ground.
The fund has already attracted 82 applications of which 18 have been successful to date. The amount awarded so far is £161,200 and that investment has supported 8 start-ups and 10 growth companies.
In May this year we also launched a number of Enterprise Hubs in our secondary schools.
Our young people are full of ambitious ideas and it’s important we nurture this new generation of entrepreneurs through the provision of support and new opportunities. There are currently twelve secondary schools and colleges taking part in this, plus one primary school (which is definitely starting them young!)
The Enterprise Hubs are collaborations between schools, students, local businesses and external partners who will offer a range of activities, services and support. These range from careers and employability-related events and workshops to supporting students and even to creating a fully functioning enterprise giving young people practical experience of the joys and pitfalls of starting a real business.
The hubs also encourage employers from around Oldham to work with schools, offering hands-on support and advice to students about the skills required to break into the various industries operating across the borough and the wider region.
This is all about ensuring that our future generations are well-placed to play their part in the future workforce.
And it’s not just enterprise opportunities for our younger residents that are available – Oldham Council is doing its bit to support and promote the entrepreneurial talents of adults too.
We’ve recently partnered with Etsy.com, the leading online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, to develop the UK’s first Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Programme. Find out more here.
So far 24 learners (aged from 18 to 59) have signed up for the first course which will be held at Oldham College in the summer. Two further courses are planned for autumn 2014, with the hope to expand further in the New Year, so watch this space.
We’re also supporting our local independent traders with £1m recently invested to help them revitalise an area of Oldham’s town centre with massive potential – the new Oldham Independent Quarter, which is the triangle area between Yorkshire Street, Clegg Street and Union Street (East).
In the last six months, there have been seven new independent businesses relocated into the area with another six in the pipeline and you can learn more about this opportunity here.
Such has been the success of this that we are now rolling it out for trial in two other parts of the borough.
On Monday, Cabinet approved a £200,000 investment to be shared equally between Shaw and Lees high street traders. We hope it will be a catalyst for creating more vibrant district centres and new jobs, leading to stronger and sustainable local economies.
On the subject of enterprising Oldham, it would be remiss of me not to mention the latest exhibition at Gallery Oldham.
‘Revolution in the bedroom’ charts the early years of computer gaming and looks at how affordable computers enabled a new generation of young programmers leading to the growth of the gaming industry and the consoles and games we play today.
So what’s the link to enterprise in Oldham? Well, it’s the fact that Ferranti, which was based in Hollinwood, produced the very first commercially available computer – the Ferranti Mark 1 – which, I guess, we could argue also makes our borough the cradle of the digital revolution.
I was humbled to receive an Honorary Fellowship from University Campus Oldham for community leadership last Friday.
Taking part in the procession through the town centre beforehand was both nerve-racking and exciting in equal measure and it meant a lot to me. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to University and if, I’m honest, I didn’t even consider it.
You never know, the sight of those 100+ beaming graduates walking through town might have just planted a seed in the mind of a young person looking on. I certainly hope so.
I was joined in receiving my honour by David Bellis MBE. He was one of the leading entrepreneurs behind Coin Controls in Royton, which is now a multi-million pound company, and I can vouch that he is a very impressive man. Well done to David – and to all those worthy graduates!
Finally, I must close by wishing good luck to our local sports stars who will be competing in the Commonwealth Games which start today in Glasgow.
Swimmers Jessica Fullalove and Jessica Lloyd and hockey player Nicola White are fantastic ambassadors for our borough and I’m sure we all wish them well in fulfilling their hopes and dreams on a huge international stage.
Sport may seem a very glamorous thing to do, but it’s very easy to forget the huge daily sacrifices that they will have made to get where they are today.
The constant dietary restraints, the early morning winter training stints and the steady stream of injuries and niggles really don’t seem glamorous to me at all.
I’m in no doubt that it takes incredible levels of personal commitment and dedication to achieve what they have so far.
We’re all proud of them and will be cheering them on in the weeks ahead.
Thanks for listening.