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Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday Guest Blog

Chris Fletcher, Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The Butcher, the Baker, the Economymaker

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very pleasant Sunday with Mrs F visiting the Fantastic Food Show at Ewood Park in Blackburn. It was really good to get to meet in person the people behind some of my favourite local food brands, from small artisan cheese makers to some larger enterprises all making great (and tasty) products.

I’m quite sure though that if I’d had my work head on and gone round asking the other visitors to the event to name a manufacturer, I doubt whether they would have picked up on the fact that the room we were stood in was full of them. Ok so there is a world of difference from making hand-cooked chips in packets to high tech aerospace engineering. At their core though these businesses are intrinsically linked - they take raw materials, use training and skill, add value and make something that can be sold or used.

Next week I have the real pleasure of hosting the Chamber’s first Engineering & Manufacturing Sector Conference. The event, on Wednesday, at the Salford City stadium, is the first of what we are planning will be a series of further events looking at how we can put the focus firmly on the sector and get the key decision makers to stop paying lip service and get serious. Some places remain but are going fast, so don’t delay, book now using the link at the bottom of this page.

One of the issues that we are looking to tackle is the overall image and perception of the sector. We realise we are not going to get this sorted by lunchtime on Wednesday, but we have to start somewhere. I’m sure that, like the attendees, many of the exhibitors at the Food Show may not class themselves as manufacturers. Does this matter? Probably not as they are already “walking the walk” but the problems start with how other people see the sector. If the public (and politicians) don’t “get” what is involved and what we are talking about then we’ll find ourselves in a constant battle to win hearts and minds nevermind progressing beyond this to start getting the help and support that is so desperately wanted.

But please don’t read this and think that the begging bowls will be out. Local engineering and manufacturing companies are holding their own at present in ridiculously tough conditions. The harsh decisions many were forced to take in the “good times” actually put many in a good position for when the downturn happened four years ago. The Government, I think, understands this but a fingers crossed approach that things will pick up is not what is needed.

I’m not sure how many candlestick makers will read this (if you are one please let me know) but whether you are a butcher a baker or even a satellite maker, all businesses in this sector make much more than their products and we should be celebrating this.

Manufacturers and engineers make real things, that sell for real money, employ and create real jobs for real people and for too long have gone unnoticed. Starting next week it's time we got them a real deal.

Book your place at the Engineering & Manufacturing Sector Conference here:

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