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The economic outlook for Lancashire is optimistic as the county starts to get its marketing message right and some major regeneration projects are getting delivered.

That was the positive view coming out of a breakfast event hosted by Downtown Lancashire in Business in association with UCLan, where the Managing Director of Maple Developments Karen Hirst, the CEO of Marketing Lancashire Rachel McQueen and the pro Vice Chancellor of the University Professor Joel Arber joined Downtown boss Frank McKenna to discuss Investment and Placemaking in the county.

Fresh from leading a Lancashire delegation to property festival MIPIM UK last week, Rachel said that Lancashire’s profile was improving both nationally and internationally, but more had to be done.

“We are more active now, in terms of getting out and about and telling people about the great opportunities that exist in the county. However, we do need to get smarter and more consistent in our messaging and going forward we need to focus more on business potential, and rather less on the visitor economy which has naturally dominated our early work.”

Karen Hirst, who works within the Eric Wright Group, added that though there were still frustrations with the lack of cohesion across the county at times, things had improved, and local authorities were working hard to ensure that the Lancashire brand was being promoted in a more coordinated fashion.

“MIPIM UK was a further indication that the county was coming together, working collaboratively, and putting out a message of positivity about the potential we have here in Lancashire. The next steps are to make our messaging clearer and more consistent.”

The UCLan success story was one that can be at the heart of that positive Lancashire story. Professor Joel Arber explained:

“UCLan is bucking the trend in terms of student recruitment. Our numbers are up, and foreign student intake is healthy too. In terms of the university’s contribution to the local economy and place making, our £200m masterplan which includes a £30m plus Engineering Innovation Centre and Adelphi Square, which will be an iconic gateway to the university, will add real value to Preston.”

Frank McKenna commented:

“What we have heard today should encourage Lancashire’s business community that there is a vision and ambition in place to drive economic growth for the county. Nevertheless, challenges remain, not least the lack of a genuine county ‘hub’, and our failure to progress on the devolution/Northern Powerhouse agenda. It’s certainly ‘glass half-full’ time though, and some of the work that Rachel and her team are delivering at Marketing Lancashire is first class.”