Southport has ‘massive untapped potential’

Tapping into the ‘huge potential’ of the digital and professional services sectors in Southport could accelerate its economy, according to a new advisor to Southport BID. Tony McDonough reports

Southport railway station
Digital and professional services have the potential to accelerate Southport’s economy 


A new advisor to Southport BID believes the town’s digital and professional services sectors hold the key to its future growth and prosperity.

Simon Reid is head of sectors at Growth Platform, Liverpool city region’s economic development agency. It was established jointly by Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Combined Authority.

Now Simon is to work with Southport BID and support its mission to diversify the town’s economy. Southport is one of the best-loved coastal towns in the UK and its thriving visitor economy is a major employer and wealth creator in the town.

Since Rachel Fitzgerald became chief executive of the BID in 2019 she has pledged to help enhance the town’s visitor offer and encourage the development of other sectors to future-proof the local economy and provide more opportunities for young people.

The devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on the hospitality and leisure sector has only served to emphasise the importance of Southport not having all of its eggs in one basket.

Simon’s expertise is in developing growth strategies for sectors across Liverpool city region He developed and implemented LCR 4.0, a programme to deliver Industry 4.0 technologies to 300 SMEs across the city region.

As an advisor to the Southport BID board, he won’t have voting rights. But he is vowing to bring all his knowledge and contacts to support the town’s transformation

He told LBN: “My role will be to give the wider city region context and how initiatives in Southport can leverage off other things happening elsewhere or inform things happening across the city region.

“I am there to act as that bridge between Southport the place and the rest of the city region. It is about how we make sure Southport play a full part in that. Conversely how does Southport inform what we do as a city region?

“That goes the same for Huyton, for Prescot, for Wirral, Widnes. It is the same principle. It is the economics of agglomeration. The city region is stronger with all its different components rather than just focusing on individual bits in isolation.”

Simon acknowledges that many people living elsewhere in the city region see Southport as a leisure destination. So many people in Merseyside and beyond can recite fond memories of idyllic summer trips to the town.

However, Southport is also home to multiple forward-looking businesses across different sectors. There are a number of specialist manufacturers who export across the world.

One of the town’s strongest offers is in financial and professional services. To give just one example, Fletcher’s Group is one of the fast-growing personal injury and medical negligence law firms in the UK, employing hundreds of people.

Southport is also the location for video game developers and virtual reality specialists. IT services firm Techedia has just opened a £1m headquarters in the Cloisters Building and the town centre will soon be home to a £1.5m Enterprise Arcade. This will be a hub for digital start-ups and entrepreneurs.

READ MORE: Could Southport become a digital hot-spot?

“A lot of the legal companies there have really been forward-thinking in adopting digital legal services. There is an emerging digital cluster and it has a lot of young people,” added Simon.

“Southport needs to move away from just talking in terms of the visitor economy. It has some great assets and some great businesses and there is a collection of such businesses all across the city region.

“So how do we get Southport more involved in that wider discussion? That is why I am there, to act as a conduit.

“It also has massive untapped potential in digital. There are some great companies there but there is distance between them and, for example, the Baltic in Liverpool. How do we bring these clusters together?

“There are a lot of young people in Southport. They are the coders and the games developers of the future. There needs to be a physical place where those young people could come together, maybe working with the local college.”


Simon Reid
Simon Reid is head of sectors at Growth Platform
Rachel Fitzgerald
Rachel Fitzgerald, chief executive of Southport BID. Picture by Gareth Jones
Crown Buildings
Crown Buildings in Southport, home to the Enterprise Arcade project


A focus on professional services and digital makes sense, says Simon, because there is already a great starting point in Southport and both represent “low-hanging fruit”.

He also believes the new £500m train fleet being introduced onto the Merseyrail network offers a great opportunity to exploit the physical connection between Southport and Liverpool.

“These new trains will allow you to plug in your laptop and work on the train. In contrast, the train to Manchester is an absolute nightmare,” he explained. “The town is part of the city region and there are loads of opportunities that can come from working more closely together.”

Simon has asked Rachel to come along to a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Digital and Creative board to talk about Southport to the digital and creative community from across the rest of the city region.

And his “second plan of attack’ is to get Professional Liverpool and Southport’s professionals to come together to create a new network and “explore what opportunities and synergies there may be”.

READ MORE: Fletchers executive is new chair of Southport BID

READ MORE: Beales to open new floor at Southport store

He said: “I think Southport has a very vibrant financial and professional sector. Rachel invited me to speak to the professional network just before Christmas. Liverpool has that too so already there is an opportunity to bring those two groups together.

I think it would be great for that group and Professional Liverpool to come together and do something jointly and open up new opportunities, particularly around skills and workforce development.

Rachel added: “Despite the setback of the pandemic we have built up a real momentum in Southport and so many people are now on board with what we are looking to achieve.

“Our visitor economy is a real powerhouse and we will continue to help that grow and build resilience for future shocks. We must also look to other sectors to increase the number of career opportunities and address issues such as youth flight.

“Simon brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of growing high value sectors. His input into our work will prove to be hugely valuable, as will his role as a bridge between Southport and the rest of the city region.

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