Greater Manchester's new mayor Andy Burnham was urged to put tech at the heart of his plans by speakers at BusinessCloud’s Digital Bolton event this week.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority has already committed to a £2m to develop a digital talent and skills programme.

It will focus on four key objectives; careers, tech pathways and innovation in digital learning, digital apprenticeships, and digital inclusion.

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During his campaign, Burnham also stated he would hold a digital summit if elected mayor.

This ‘can only be a good thing’ according to Joy Sewart, Head of Skills Development at GM Chamber, who attended the event at the University of Bolton on Wednesday, May 17.

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“The Chamber has a close working relationship with Andy and his team,” she added.

“We look forward to working with him over the next three years to help develop and deliver what our members have told us they expect to see from the mayor.”

These sentiments were echoed by Phil Foster, managing director of Love Energy Savings, which employs 160 people in Bolton, and is predicted to top £15.6m in turnover by the end of 2017.

He said: “Major northern cities, such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, are already on an upwards trajectory, a direction that the Northern Powerhouse project has the potential to accelerate.

“However, it is vital that the newly-delegated mayors maintain pressure on the Government to continue with the project and to continue to generate investment across the North, including other cities and towns, like Bolton.

“With Andy Burnham’s recent resounding election victory to become Greater Manchester’s first mayor, we have a strong platform to push forwards with the devolution of power away from Westminster.

“A well-defined and supported ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan offers the chance for businesses in Bolton and across Greater Manchester to benefit from an economic renaissance in the North.

“Clarity as to what the Northern Powerhouse actually means for other cities and towns across the north, such as Bolton, is crucial if it is to succeed.

“Many businesses based in the North are already showing that they are more than capable of competing with London and the South East. For this to continue, however, the Northern Powerhouse needs a crystal-clear, bold and specific vision that everyone understands and can unite behind.”

A lunchtime staple in Bolton, Carr’s Pasties has experienced significant growth without stratching itself too far outside of the town’s boundaries.

This is something boss Matt Carr attributes to the strength of digital marketing, which has massively raised the company’s profile.

He says the idea of Bolton being a major digital player would have sounded silly a few years ago, but things are changing.
“As a town we are proud of our heritage and as a traditional company looking at the digital industry today, it's easy to see that Bolton now has a lot to offer.

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“From BAE Systems using Sitcom Soldiers video agency to the popular digital courses provided by the University of Bolton, we are in a fantastic position.

“We have a city on our doorstep that is booming, with admirable long term prospects.

"We have large regeneration plans led by our own council and the likes of Peel, Howarth and we are still a location that offers attractive set up costs.

“A couple of years ago I said that this is the right place at the right time and this is still the case.

He added: “It's easy to be cynical about the Northern Powerhouse - the case for high speed trains is not convincing and George Osborne has scarpered.

“The reality is that we have a host of development projects happening today with many in the pipeline that have a direct effect on our town - electrification of the train lines, the Ordsall Chord, Manchester Victoria station redevelopment and the new Bolton bus station are all fantastic, crucial developments to better connect us to Manchester and beyond.

“I have listened to our new elected mayor Andy Burnham and believe he will drive further benefits to Bolton and other towns around Manchester, through his ability to control a very large budget, devolved from central government.”