Marketing Lancashire has a new chairman. David Nowell sits down with him to talk about selling Lancashire to the world
Company boss Tony Attard knows a thing or two about selling products overseas.
He is the founder and chief executive of Burnley-based fabric manufacturer Panaz, which exports to dozens of countries.
Now he has a new role - to sell Lancashire as a centre for world-class tourism and investment.
Tony has been appointed the new chairman of Marketing Lancashire.
He replaces Lancashire restaurateur Paul Heathcote, who stood down last summer following three very successful years of growth for the body.
Tony’s appointment comes as the organisation consolidates its strategy to sell Lancashire not just as a tourist destination but as a great place to live, work and invest.
Marketing Lancashire was established in 2012 as the Destination Management Organisation for Lancashire.
The county attracts over 63 million visitors a year, contributing around £3.7 billion to the local economy and supporting over 56,000 jobs.
Marketing Lancashire now aims to grow visitor numbers to 70 million by 2020.
Marketing Lancashire is working closely with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership to draw up the “Lancashire Story”, which is designed to market Lancashire in a coherent way, highlighting its key assets.
That is one of the aspects of the new job that Tony is closely involved with.
‘Adopted Lancastrian’ Tony was born in Poole, Dorset, but found himself in the North while studying at university.
He met and married a Blackpool girl and has stayed in Lancashire ever since.
In 1985 he formed Burnley-based Panaz, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of high quality fire-retardant fabrics and wallcoverings for the hospitality, healthcare and corporate sectors.
It exports all over the world and projects range from refurbishing the Disney Hotel in Hong Kong to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
He knows all about how to sell abroad - and Marketing Lancashire hopes that Tony’s skills will enable it to shout louder about what the county has to offer.
Said Tony: “We need a more international reach. Lancashire has a wonderful heritage of manufacturing. We have great people, businesses and factories. Our workforce is incredibly proud of the products they manufacture.
“We are working very closely with the LEP to attract inward investment.”
Marketing Lancashire chief executive Ruth Connor said Tony had all the right credentials for the job.
She said: “Tony Attard has an exceptional track-record as a successful business entrepreneur with global connections.
“His Burnley-based company Panaz exports to 46 countries, demonstrating one of Lancashire’s core strengths in creating and making products that are in demand the world-over.
“Marketing Lancashire’s role is to promote Lancashire on a national and international scale. Tony brings extensive business experience and credibility.”
Ruth said that perhaps the county had not been pro-active enough in marketing itself internationally - the Lancashire Story would provide it with a cohesive strategy.
She said: “It’s about the positioning of Lancashire - we need to shout loud and proud about all that we have here.”
Lancashire has a lot to offer visitors, from the picturesque countryside of the Ribble Valley and Pendle to the bright lights of Blackpool.
What it hasn’t got is year-round sunshine - but Ruth and Tony don’t see that as a problem given its indoor attractions and the delights of a walk in the countryside whatever the weather .
He and Ruth met through Creative Lancashire and he was delighted when the chance to become chairman of Marketing Lancashire came along.
He said: “I was very pleased to get involved. The passion and the drive is there.
“The Lancashire Story will soon be ready and it’s given us the key themes. We need to get the message out there.”
Tony said it was important that Lancashire was part of the Northern Powerhouse.
He said Burnley was proving itself a “mini powerhouse” - going from strength to strength in attracting investment and jobs.
That was one of the achievements that the county should be shouting about. So how will he find time to fit in his new duties as chairman of Marketing Lancashire with running a major business?
Tony replied: “They say if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. It’s about life-work integration.”
It looks like his working life just got busier.