UnitedCity will devise viable strategy for getting Greater Manchester moving again safely
A group of business leaders has come together to launch a new initiative in Greater Manchester in the wake of COVID-19.
Prominent figures across the city region including Gary Neville of Relentless Group; Chris Oglesby of Bruntwood; Lisa Morton of Roland Dransfield PR; Will Lewis of OBI and Frank McKenna of Downtown in Business have founded UnitedCity – an independent campaign group which will aim to set Greater Manchester on the road to economic recovery by encouraging citizens and workforces to return safely to its towns and the city centre.
UnitedCity will commission privately-funded campaigns and independent research which will give clear messaging and data around safety in the workplace, within hospitality venues, and on transport.
The core aim of the initiative will be to get Manchester ‘back on its feet’ in a safe manner, supporting retail, leisure, culture, and sports businesses – which its founders believe add vibrancy and life to Manchester, and are central to attraction and retention of best-in-class talent.
This will be achieved through the development of a strategy, produced with input from the GMCA and Manchester City Council, which will demonstrate the economic and health costs of COVID, identify secure ways in which both can be minimised, and look at the experience of creating COVID-secure environments.
Longer-term, the research produced by UnitedCity, which will form the basis of the strategy, will be used to negotiate lockdown restrictions with central Government, ensuring that in future, a clear roadmap can be put in place to navigate out of restrictions which hamper the region’s economic recovery or further compromise the mental health of its residents.
The collective of business owners will also raise funds through the private sector which will help support Greater Manchester’s most vulnerable citizens through the crisis.
Although independent of local and central Government, the group has the backing of Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, Andy Burnham and Elise Wilson, Greater Manchester’s economy lead.
UnitedCity believes that the success of Manchester city centre is critical to the success of the whole of Greater Manchester.
Chris Oglesby, CEO at Bruntwood, commented, “It goes without saying that the region’s ecosystem is broken without a confident and collective return to a more normal life, and that an economic recovery for the city – and millions of people who rely on that ecosystem – is impossible without a shared impetus to get things moving again.
“Within the UnitedCity steering group, we have professionals who can support and advise business leaders to ensure that they are able to practically and emotionally support their returning workforces.
“The city centre in particular needs life breathed back into it; it’s nothing without its people, and the culture, hospitality, retail and leisure businesses within it have helped create Manchester’s reputation as a hotbed of innovation and dynamism.
“We’ll be looking to build a broad coalition with other business organisations and political leaders, with the long-term aim of ensuring Greater Manchester can recover in a way which is sustainable and healthy.”
UnitedCity’s campaigns will have a focus on driving productivity, supporting economic recovery, and spotlighting city centre culture, health, and wellbeing. These campaigns will be multi-channel, incorporating events, advertising, digital, media and press.
A piece of research has already been commissioned by the partnership to better understand the transmission data for COVID-secure commercial premises, public transport, retail, and leisure. This will inform UnitedCity’s COVID-safe return strategy and will provide actionable insights which will both aid in campaign work, and in negotiating with central Government around the loosening of restrictions.
Gary Neville, founder and director of Relentless Group, added: “To make this happen, we need as much support from the business community as possible.
“We are looking for business leaders to step up and lead the change to our working habits; to get our teams back into the office and back together again.”
Will Lewis of OBI added: "A lot of people still haven't even been back to the city centre since March. We're so concerned for all sorts of different sectors.
"So we hope that this organisation will encourage and help Manchester and encourage people to get back to the city - not in a cavalier way, in a Covid-secure way. It's got to be done safely."
"There is a way of bringing teams back to offices", Will added.
"The bigger businesses do have a responsibility. They've grown their businesses in the city, and they've been the last and the slowest to come back. They're going to have a shock at the city they come back to if they don't take responsibility to bring people back and using hotels, bars, restaurants, cinemas, galleries, music venues in a safe way."
£100,000 has already been placed into the fund by the founding partners, with further monies due to be raised via a membership fee, which will enable other local businesses to become part of UnitedCity.
Businesses that have already pledged support to the initiative include AO.com, Property Alliance Group, Booking.com, and more. A full list is available on the website.
Individual business leaders and organisations who wish to be part of the UnitedCity partnership can register their interest at www.united-city.co.uk.