Technology can be Warrington’s secret weapon, according to the council’s CEO.
Warrington’s nuclear and logistics sectors are well known but the boss of Warrington Borough Council Steven Broomhead said a lot of people underestimated the strength of the digital industry.
Broomhead was speaking at Warrington’s Business Exchange’s annual conference yesterday (March 21), which was attended by 200 businesses and hosted by BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire.
The council bought Birchwood Park in 2017 for £211m and Broomhead said it was a hotbed of technology firms.
“There are lots of tech businesses on there and there are lots of other businesses which are enabled through technology,” he said
“On Omega there’s logistics. They are enabled by technology, and if take the Asda Walmart site on Omega, there are 800 jobs there, 400 of them are involved in robotics and technology. It’s hidden, but it’s growing and it’s an enabler.
“I think the digital and tech sector is Warrington’s best-kept secret. Our identity is quite strong. We’re seen as a place to come and invest. It’s a good place for employment and a good place to live in. We’re very well connected on rail and road.”
The Business Exchange is run by Warrington & Co and aims to create a stronger economy through collaboration. The annual conference was sponsored by Squire Patton Boggs and the British Business Bank.
Bill Carr is the CEO of consultancy-led digital agency Carpe Diem, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year.
He said Warrington’s tech sector was ‘huge’ but lacked ‘visibility’.
“There are fantastic large and small businesses that completely rely on technology that is based here,” he said. “We just need to work harder in promoting ourselves.
“Warrington is definitely shy. We’re a little bit quieter than our noisy neighbours in Liverpool and Manchester but we’ve got a lot to be proud of that we’ve achieved.” The entrepreneur said the opening of the Opus Digital hub was a game changer.
“Our background over the last three or four years has been spent a lot in Manchester, working on accelerator programmes, investing and mentoring the start-ups,” he said.
“All of those have run out of co-working spaces. We saw an opportunity to bring the same growth through innovative methods and aspirations to Warrington. We can do it a lot cheaper here than we could do in Manchester.
“It’s dedicated to digital and tech-based start-ups, and it can accommodate 50-60.”
Amanda Williams is the global HR director of Warrington-headquartered tech firm NDS Global, which has a core workforce of 220.
The company specialises in managing every aspect of revenue management, business assurance and analytics, using its BSS-as-a-service platform.
Williams said Warrington tech sector isn’t widely known.
“People think of the cities first,” she said. “Warrington is not known and I think that is probably a brand piece that we’re not proactive on.
“Warrington is good for business. We do find people. We are an SME so we’ve got that challenge compared to some bigger organisations from the overall salary and remuneration, but because we’re personable and agile and people can make a difference, we do manage to recruit.”
Other speakers included Greville Kelly, of Groundwork; Coun Dan Price, of Warrington Borough Council; Professor Kim Cassidy, Edge Hill University; John Laverick, of Warrington & Co; Mark Barker, of Squire Patton Boggs; Dominic Jude, Emerald Bay; Phil Jones, managing director of Brother UK; Faisal Rashid, MP for Warrington South; MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Karl Susol, Department of International Trade; Jessica Zhang, of China-Britain Business Council.