Chesterfield is a place to do business.
That was the message at the first Chesterfield Investment Summit which saw more than 200 people gather at Casa Hotel to learn about the investment potential of the area.
Speaking at yesterday’s event, Huw Bowen, chief executive of Chesterfield Borough Council, revealed that 475 new start-up businesses were set up in 2016, an increase of more than 70 per cent compared to 2012.
This, he said, had actively contributed to a 28 per cent increase in the town’s productivity in five years, outperforming South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and England.
The increase in start-ups now brings the number of businesses operating in Chesterfield to more than 3,000 with more set to come on board as plans for the town’s HS2 stop get underway.
Keynote speaker Richard Brown, HS2 board member and a non-executive member of the Department for Transport board, urged the conference not to believe some media reports that the high-speed railway line would not happen.
“HS2 is happening. Work has already started on phase one,” he said.
However, he urged the room to ‘keep up the pressure for HS2’ as funding for phase 2B, which incorporates Chesterfield, has not yet been secured.
Previously on the board of Eurostar, Mr Brown said that there was the opportunity for HS2 to transform Chesterfield’s fortunes in the same way Eurostar had done for the Lille in France.
The city, which is in the north of France, was known for its industrial background and underwent some difficult years prior to having a Eurostar station.
Now Lille is known throughout France for its handsome city centre and its very active cultural life and is ranked as one of the major metropolitan areas of Europe.
Mr Brown added: “HS2 will make the range of job opportunities to people living in Chesterfield hugely wider and likewise for employers.
“Planning ahead is critical to realise the benefits.”
He urged the room to ‘seize the opportunity and use it as a lever to transform the area economically and socially’.
The first HS2 train will arrive in Chesterfield in 2033.
Ahead of this, the borough council has outline plans to improve the approach to the railway station and better connect it to the town centre, creating easy access to shopping, bars and restaurants, as well as improving public transport links locally and to the Peak District.
The development would link to the Chesterfield Waterside development and build on the momentum of that project.
Mr Bowen added: “Chesterfield’s green lungs have overtaken the town’s mining heritage which is making it an attractive 21st century investment prospect to investors.”
The Chesterfield Investment Summit was organised by Destination Chesterfield, Derbyshire Economic Partnership and Marketing Derby.
Peter Swallow, chair of Destination Chesterfield, said: “The £1billion of regeneration currently taking place in Chesterfield right now is a great example of public and private sector working together.
“This has created a blueprint for partnership working ahead of HS2, which will ensure residents, businesses and visitors fully benefit from the all opportunities that will arise in Chesterfield and the surrounding areas over the next 17 years and beyond.”
John Forkin, managing director of Marketing Derby, added: “We were delighted to be a part of this fantastic initiative, which shows the strong collaboration across Derby and Derbyshire.
“It was great to see the development opportunities coming down the line in Chesterfield and Derbyshire.”