Downtown ‘has facilitated £2bn of deals’

As it celebrates its 18th birthday Liverpool networking and lobby group Downtown in Business says it has facilitated more than £2bn worth of business deals since 2003. Tony McDonough reports

Downtown in Business
DIB chief executive Frank McKenna has led Downtown in Business since 2003. Picture by Jack Ehlen


Liverpool-based business networking and lobby group Downtown in Business (DIB) is celebrating its 18th birthday.

And the organisation says that it has facilitated more than £2bn worth of business deals through its network since its launch back in 2003. Led by chief executive Frank McKenna, has seen significant growth in that time having established the brand in seven locations across the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham and London.

It was this week in 2003 that DIB held its first-ever Livercool Awards at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the waterfront. Among the sponsors for the event on the evening were Iliad, Coutts Bank, Paver Downes, NoName Kitchens, and the Northwest Development Agency.

Keynote speaker on the night was Esther McVey – now the Conservative MP for Tatton and a former Government minister. Back then her political career was still to begin and she was the managing director of business consultancy Winning Women.

“I can’t believe it’s been 18 years,” said Frank McKenna. “They say time flies when you’re having fun, so I must have had an absolute ball. 

“When we started out back in 2003, I had no idea that Downtown was going to prove to be such a powerful and influential network and that we would have a presence right across the North West, up to Leeds, and down to Birmingham, and more recently London.

“Next year we will be in Wolverhampton and Newcastle, and we have an ambition to be in 12 cities by the end of 2023.

“DIB has survived through the financial crash of 2008, and a global pandemic. We have only been able to do that because of the loyal support from our fantastic members from right across the country. We owe a massive debt of gratitude to all of them.

Lord Heseltine with Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna. Picture by Tony McDonough


“We are also very grateful to those many political leaders, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs who have contributed to the thousands of events we have hosted since our launch.”

DIB has been at the forefront of campaigns for the establishment of elected mayors and greater devolution for city regions and it has hosted more ‘in-person’ events than any other business organisation in the country over the past 18 months, including the first ‘live’ business awards.   

Frank added: “We set up to disrupt what was happening in Liverpool. The city leadership had stopped listening to business and it needed to be challenged. I hope that we have always been constructive in our criticism, a critical friend.

“But we fiercely defend our independence and the need for the private sector to be able to express a view without fear of favour. We will continue to adopt that approach, determined to provide the business community with a strong voice, continuing to facilitate deals for our members – and having an enjoyable time in the process.

“I was told by a Liverpool council official back in 2003 that we wouldn’t last five minutes. We’ve seen five chief executives, three leaders, and two mayors come and go in the city since then. We’re now established in Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Leeds, Birmingham, and London. I’m not sure what happened to that council officer.”      

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