This year’s SGF Study Tour visited Inverclyde for an education on the recent regeneration of the hard-hit region and the opportunities for local retailers.
Recent SGF Study Tours have earned a reputation for the unconventional and last month’s latest Tour was no exception with a group of retailers, wholesalers and suppliers heading to the west coast to learn about the regeneration of Inverclyde and its three towns: Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow.
SLR joined the Study Tour once more and enjoyed a fascinating, informative and very busy day comprising presentations, site visits, factory visits, walking tours and a guided bus trip.
The region has suffered a torrid time in recent decades following the collapse of many of its key industries like shipbuilding then the subsequent failure of the tech zone it had focused its regeneration efforts upon. When flagship ‘tenant’ IBM pulled out, it left mass unemployment and economic chaos in its wake.
The study tour gave attendees the chance to see the efforts being made to regenerate the entire region – and with some very important successes. The passion and enthusiasm of the team at Riverside Inverclyde, the body tasked with co-ordinating the regeneration, was striking.
CEO Fiona Maguire welcomed the group as it disembarked at Gourock railway station and gave a tour of the entirely rebuilt transport hub and marina, a development that has kick-started a raft of knock-on investment in the immediate surroundings. A walking tour of the town centre then offered a first-hand look at how the high street has been rebuilt before it was down to Greenock for a tour of the Golden Casket factory, conducted by CEO Crawford Rae. A presentation on the history of the company was followed by a walk around the factory where the famous Buchanans and Millions brands, among others, are made. A true family business, the business employs around 200 staff, making it one of the largest employers in the region.
A visit to the waterside Beacon Arts Centre then allowed for some presentations by several local entrepreneurs, chaired by Riverside Inverclyde Head of Business Investment Andrew Bowman.
The speakers included Graeme Galbraith, Marina Manager at the flourishing James Watt Dock Marina who explained the massively positive economic impact the marina has on the local area, and Martin McAdam, CEO of Ardgowan Distillery. The Distillery has yet to be built and is unlikely to start producing saleable whisky for at least eight or nine years but the multi-million-pound project will involve the creation of a very large development complete with distillery, warehousing, retail space, restaurants and more. .
The day was rounded off with a guided bus tour of sites of interest around the region which included Ocean Terminal; Kip Marina and Power Station; the site of Ardgowan Distillery; Spango Valley development site; and Drumfrochar Road development site, before a well-earned refreshment at the spectacularly-refurbished Custom House.
SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema told SLR: “The energy and passion that is going into the redevelopment of Inverclyde is fascinating to see and I think all delegates enjoyed the experience.”