Eighteen years ago this week, Downtown in Business hosted its very first event. The ‘Livercool’ awards at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the city’s famous waterfront.
Among the sponsors for the event on the evening were Liverpool property development company Iliad, Coutts Bank, PR agency Paver Downes, Noname Kitchens, and the Northwest Development Agency. The keynote speaker on the night was Esther McVey – the MP for Tatton now, but back then the Managing Director of ‘Winning Women’.
Almost two decades later, and the organisation that was set up to make a difference for business and support the growth of the Liverpool economy, has established its brand in seven locations, with plans to add a further two cities to its portfolio in 2022.
DIB founder, Group Chairman and Chief Executive Frank Mckenna said:
“I can’t believe it’s been eighteen years. They say time flies when you’re having fun, so I must have had an absolute ball.
“When we started out back in 2003, I had no idea that Downtown was going to prove to be such a powerful and influential network and that we would have a presence right across the North West, up to Leeds, and down to Birmingham, and more recently London.
“Next year we will be in Wolverhampton and Newcastle, and we have an ambition to be in twelve cities by the end of 2023.
“Downtown in Business has survived through the financial crash of 2008, and a global pandemic. We have only been able to do that because of the loyal support from our fantastic members from right across the country. We owe a massive debt of gratitude to all of them.
“We are also very grateful to those many political leaders, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs who have contributed to the thousands of events we have hosted since our launch.”
DIB estimates that it has facilitated over £2BN worth of business deals through its network. The organisation has been at the forefront of campaigns for the establishment of elected mayors and greater devolution for city-regions, and Downtown has hosted more ‘in-person’ events than any other business organisation in the country over the past eighteen months, including the first ‘live’ business awards.
Mr McKenna added:
“We set up to disrupt what was happening in Liverpool. The city leadership had stopped listening to business and it needed to be challenged.
“I hope that we have always been constructive in our criticism, a critical friend. But we fiercely defend our independence and the need for the private sector to be able to express a view without fear of favour.
“We will continue to adopt that approach, determined to provide the business community with a strong voice, continuing to facilitate deals for our members – and having an enjoyable time in the process. “I was told by a Liverpool council official back in 2003 that we wouldn’t last five minutes. We’ve seen five chief executives, three leaders, and two mayors come and go in the city since then. We’re now established in Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Leeds, Birmingham, and London. I’m not sure what happened to that council officer.”