Smell the optimism in the air

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If you have visited Lancaster and Morecambe recently, you may have noticed something unfamiliar in the air. I think it might best be described as a quiet but tangible sense of optimism.

It feels as though the region has awakened from a long slumber, taken a fresh look around and realised things are not half bad. And in Lancashire, where folk are not famous for being effusive, that is high praise indeed.

Positive influences from the outside world - brought close by cheap flights and Instagram - are starting to percolate through our hometown. Our creative work spaces would not look out of place in Shoreditch or Berlin. Our coffee shops could be in the Northern Quarter or Brooklyn.

The beautifully reimagined Lancaster Castle courtyard, with a cafe by Atkinsons Coffee Roasters at its heart, could give the Piece Hall a run for its money in tastefully understated grandeur.

The Midland Hotel - an Art Deco masterpiece - would slot perfectly into any beautiful European city.

And if - as looks increasingly likely - the Eden Project North goes ahead and brings an infusion of investment and visitors, then Morecambe’s famous sunsets will stop being a metaphor for a town with its best days behind it.

At an event later this week, I have been invited to join a panel discussion about why businesses ought to invest in our region. There are some obvious and very practical points about transport links (central London is a shade over two hours away by train, the Lake District is so close we can see the mountains) and the universities (one of which is globally recognised and expanding at a clip).

But I am most excited by the untapped potential of the people. There is so much talent here. People with skills and passion and not quite enough opportunity

A few more big businesses setting up shop here might be nice, but a culture which encourages start-ups, workshops, creative agencies and tech businesses offers a more sustainable future. And although local government gets a lot of stick, its newly unveiled digital and innovation strategy is a big step in the right direction.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design