MORE than 40 Cumbrian businesses were represented at an event held in Carlisle to launch a group aimed at growing business for the professional services sector in the county.
The Professional Services Association business breakfast at The Halston on Thursday attracted more than 50 delegates to hear how the group will bring more business to those working in the sector.
Paul Dickson, chief executive and managing partner of Armstrong Watson, and Jonathan Lee, former managing director of CN Group, shared with attendees the reason for the formation of the group and its aims.
Mr Dickson said: “At MP John Stevenson’s request, I had the privilege to chair the Professional Services Group at the Nuclear Conference which John hosted just over two years ago.
“It has become clear that we needed to bring together the voices of all Cumbrian Professional Services firms to tell their story and to shout about the expertise we have in Cumbria.
“The purpose of the association is to promote the skills and expertise which are available within professional services businesses in Cumbria so that more businesses and individuals use them - rather than sending their work outside the county to city firms in the likes of Newcastle, Manchester and London.
“Businesses in Cumbria don’t need to go out of the county yet they do. For the long term success of the Professional Services Sector in Cumbria, we should keep that work in Cumbria.
“We have great people with real expertise.
“As Professional Services businesses, it is our job to help Cumbrian businesses be successful and create prosperity.
“The Cumbrian LEP reports that the productivity of the Cumbrian Professional Services sector is lower than the national average. That is not good for Cumbria or Cumbrian businesses.
“We need to tell the story that we do have a successful, vibrant, high quality Professional Services sector in Cumbria. With the skill sets that Cumbrian businesses need and should use.
“By doing that we will as a sector attract the talent back to Cumbria. We will show businesses that we have the talent to help them prosper.”
Jonathan Lee is heading up the initiative, which will start its activities in September.
Paul said: “Jonathan has not only cross sector expertise but most importantly county knowledge, so is perfectly placed to lead the Professional Services Association for Cumbria. This will benefit us all.
“Jonathan helped create not only the county’s leading business platform, in-Cumbria, but also masterminded the launch of Choose Cumbria created to help shout proudly that our county is the perfect place to live, work and play. The same is needed for our Professional Services.
“Jonathan and the PSA have my full support, Armstrong Watson’s full support and John Stevenson’s support.”
Jonathan shared with attendees that the professional services sector in Cumbria, although highlighted as punching below its weight at the moment, has been earmarked as a "growth sector".
It also represents a chance to help Cumbria diversify its economy above and beyond its traditional strengths of the likes of nuclear and energy, advanced manufacturing and submarine building, agriculture, tourism, and food and drink.
There was no reason, he said, why Cumbria should not also be known for its professional services expertise, in supporting business and organisations in those sectors and other industries, and helping grow the county's economy.
The sector also has a vital role to play in helping to retain and attract talent in Cumbria, with the county facing a reduction in working age population over the coming years.
For the business breakfast event, experts at some of the area's leading professional services companies had shared their experiences of why there was a need for the group to champion the sector and win more business for its members, by raising awareness among businesses across the county of the skills and expertise that exists on their doorstep.
And leading business people in the county added their weight to the view of the need to let other businesses, who look outside the county for their professional services, know why they would be better off speaking to professional services businesses in Cumbria.
Jonathan said afterwards: "The feedback showed there was a lot of interest in the Professional Services Association. People said there was a clear need for the group and an obvious opportunity to grow the amount of professional services business in the county.
“Having spoken direct with businesses and individuals over the last few weeks and months it is clear that the expertise and experience to deal with complex issues, for which some businesses and organisations automatically think they have to go outside the county, exists right here in Cumbria.
"The opportunity to tell that story on behalf of these businesses, and to deliver economic success for members of the association, as well as helping the county's businesses and organisations get better advice and support which will all help the wider Cumbrian economy, is an exciting proposition.”
Several companies have already pledged their support for the group.
For further information, or to find out how to become a member of the association, contact Jonathan Lee 07444-022038 or email firstname.lastname@example.org