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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the October 2015 issue

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Once the world’s largest fishing port, Grimsby is today a thriving modern town with an ever-changing landscape that is putting it at the forefront of many of the 21st century’s fast-growing industries.

Offering excellent facilities for education, shopping, leisure and work, Grimsby is also synonymous with the food industry and is known as ‘Europe’s Food Town’.

But it is the key sectors such as ports and logistics, renewable energy and seafood and process industries that are the driving force behind its new-found popularity.

The Port of Grimsby and Immingham is the UK’s largest port by tonnage, handling around twelve per cent (62.6 million tonnes) of the UK’s cargo. It handles fourteen per cent of all sea traffic with all international ports.

More than 300 new jobs have been created so far in the renewables sector in Grimsby and it is the UK’s seafood capital, with more than 100 processing-related companies.

There is a food-trained workforce of more than 5,000 people locally; it hosts one of the largest concentrations of cold storage facilities in Europe and supplies the vast majority of seafood for the UK’s retail, food service and consumer markets.

Anne Tate of the Hull & Humber Chamber of Trade which covers the Grimsby area, said Grimsby and Cleethorpes are now entering what is a new renaissance for the area.

“The heritage and fishing industries remain strong but, as part of the wider Humber estuary, we are looking at unparalleled levels of investment – £120 billion by 2030 – with more scope to create jobs,” she said.

“I believe that every interest in the renewable energy industry is now represented in Grimsby and that is quite amazing.

“The business landscape has been changing rapidly over the last year and there are still more exciting developments yet to come. But what has been particularly exciting has been the renewables activity which has breathed new life into Grimsby fishdocks and has enormous potential for the future of the area.”

Grimsby Fish Market (GFM) continues to be a significant daily auction of fresh fish and has improved its facilities and services. It now has accreditations from MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) and BRC (British Retail Consortium), underpinning its position as one of the main auctions for sourcing sustainable fresh fish in the UK.

Processing in Grimsby continues to be strong, despite changes and difficulties to supply and sourcing and this area processes the majority of finished products in the UK, which go to multiple retailers.

The handling and landing of fishing vessels has been consistent again this year and the arrival of overland supplies, mainly from Iceland and Norway, is still a major feature of GFM.

Chief executive of the Port of Grimsby East and Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises, Martyn Boyers, said: “Port of Grimsby East is still dominated by the influx of crew transfer vessels for the development of offshore renewables. There have been a number of infrastructure projects to improve the Port facilities and these have been supported by North East Lincolnshire Council.

“PoGe has also worked constructively with Associated British Ports (ABP) to improve port facilities and attract outside investment into Grimsby. An outer berth facility has been constructed for transfer of personnel at low water and the latest project is to develop the Slipway facility,” said Mr Boyers.

The £1.8 million project will see a complete overhaul of the vessel repair facilities at Port of Grimsby East to aid the offshore wind farm industry, helping the town further capitalise on the economic opportunity.

The eighty-year-old slipways are to be refurbished, with the focal point a new 200-tonne marine hoist – nearly 17m high and more than 11m wide – capable of handling almost anything that enters the lock gates.

It means that not only will Grimsby be a hub for offshore wind farm servicing and maintenance, but the facilities will be in place to tend to the vessels, too.

“Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises (GFDE) has secured match-funding from the Growing the Humber Regional Growth Fund pot, and is working closely with North East Lincolnshire Council and Grimsby Ship Repairers and Engineers Association,” said Mr Boyers.

“We have collectively recognised the requirement to improve the facility in the light of the change to the type of vessels that now come into Grimsby. The current system is old fashioned, it was commissioned in 1935.

“We have decided to pursue a new alternative, which will create a facility that will attract more vessels into Grimsby, create more commercial activity and jobs.”

Grimsby historically has a skills base in marine engineering and this can only increase as the facility adds to the potential for work here.

“PoGe is firmly established now as the leading ‘operations and maintenance’ Port in the UK with a number of major UK companies based here,” said Mr Boyers.

Grimsby has just played host to a successful World Seafood Congress which attracted nearly 300 attendees and took place, for the first time in the event’s history, on UK soil in the heart of the British fishing industry. People travelled from twenty-three countries across the world to attend.

Hosted at the state-of-the-art Grimsby Institute last month, the congress centred on the theme of ‘Upskilling for a Sustainable Future’, and featured talks, workshops and training on trade, innovation and sustainability led by more than ninety speakers from across the globe, including individuals from Defra, the University of Santa Barbara, CEFAS, NOAA, FAO, Marks & Spencer, WorldFish and Seafish, which hosted this year’s event.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, took to the stage at the congress gala dinner to address delegates and share some of his experiences in the field of exploration and the natural world.

The event was backed by Asda, Marks & Spencer, Icelandic Seachill and Young’s.

There was a blow to the town earlier in the summer when Young’s Seafood – Europe’s leading seafood firm, with local production sites and headquarters in Grimsby – announced they had lost a major contract and would be looking at operations across their various sites.

But North East Lincolnshire Council stepped in and secured cash from a major government programme to help the company invest in its two sites in Grimsby and secure its future in the town. It is estimated that, as a result of this, up to 200 jobs could be created and another 250 jobs safeguarded in the town.

Now Young’s has increased the range of its popular Gastro brand of fish dishes launched in supermarkets last month and backed by a television and multi-channel digital advertising campaign and in-store promotions.

Young’s Gastro chief executive, Peter Ward said: “Having launched in 2012 and now worth more than £30 million, having grown by fifty per cent in the last year, the success of Young’s Gastro proves that it is possible to grow frozen brands in today’s market.”

The town centre has not been overlooked and work is underway on the £6m office and retail development at Cartergate. The offices will become the new headquarters of the area’s largest law firm, Wilkin Chapman Solicitors, and will both support the regeneration of the town centre and support the firm’s growth and development plans.

About 27,000 square feet of office and complementary ground floor retail space will also be created by the development. The remaining land at Cartergate is being marketed for a quality hotel scheme or a suitable alternative development.

The town received another boost just a few weeks ago, when a vital support group for the area’s burgeoning offshore wind industry was officially launched.

The Grimsby Renewables Partnership had its origins in the town seven years ago. The focus then was on providing a link between the huge blue chip companies building and operating the turbines, and businesses in the area; aiding the local economy while helping to reduce the cost of green energy.

Early work saw three men in a single portable office and a tiny pontoon welcoming three vessels, little knowing that it would rapidly grow into what it is now – with upwards of £20 million invested in infrastructure in Grimsby, 450 people directly employed and more than double that yet to come.

FRESHNEY PLACE
Freshney Place Shopping Centre is the main retail destination in Grimsby, offering more than 100 shops, cafes and restaurants including a range of high street brands and small independent boutiques.

It hosts a number of events and campaigns throughout the year to attract and entertain shoppers and families, along with supporting local charity and community projects. This activity is aimed at increasing footfall and dwell time in the centre, whilst also supporting retailers to drive sales.

A key focus throughout 2015 has been the promotion of brands and high end products that are available at the centre. It offers hundreds of brands and concessions within its retail stores including Vivienne Westwood, Moda in Pelle, Barbour, Dior, Clinique, Mint Velvet, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, YSL, Swarovski and Michael Kors.

Freshney Place has also celebrated recent success with several store refurbishments, expansions and investments. One of these store investments is JD Sports, which has recently relocated to a larger unit in the centre occupying 859 sq ft and creating nine additional jobs for local people. This expansion demonstrates confidence in Freshney Place as a retail destination.

Centre director, Amanda Austin commented: “The expansion and relocation of JD is just one of several very exciting changes we have planned for the centre, and we are extremely pleased that we were able to accommodate their request for a larger unit.

“We have more than 100 retailers offering more than 800 brands and JD embraces a whole range of popular sporting concessions including Adidas, Nike and Lacoste.”

Further store investments include Quiz, Angelia with the addition of new and exclusive brands and Primark which is due to upsize from 10,000 sq ft to 47,000 sq ft.

New store openings have included Trespass, American Candy and Love Aroma.

“There are further plans for the centre, including the multi-screen cinema and several restaurants moving in next year, and the team continue discussions with national brands about relocating to the centre,” said Amanda.

“In addition, the centre has teamed up with The Business Hive in Grimsby to run an ‘Apprentice Retailer’ competition, giving a budding and local entrepreneur with a big retail idea the chance to win a shop, rent and rates free, at Freshney Place for six months while they kickstart their new business into life.”

Freshney Place has hosted many successful events since the start of January, including the free monthly Snapper Jaxx kids’ club which runs on the first Sunday of every month. More than 2,000 children have taken part in events so far.

To engage with the local community and offer shoppers an experience when visiting the shopping centre, Freshney Place has also run key events during school holidays including Street Smart, Listen Up and the Miniature Museum of Maritime Marvellousness.

“Street Smart ran during May half-term, giving children and families the opportunity to enjoy free fun and educational activities. More than 350 children took part, footfall increased by 4.6 per cent compared with the previous year and retailer sales increased by up to five per cent year on year,” said Amanda.

“The recent Maritime Museum celebrated the local fishing heritage in Grimsby and engaged with local businesses and schools to host a pop-up museum in the centre offering sea shanty singing, fishy tales and treasure hunt trails.

“Led by themed characters, more than 500 children took part and retailer sales increased by up to thirty-five per cent compared with the previous month.”

Following a successful launch last year, Listen Up ran every Wednesday afternoon throughout the summer and offered local artists the opportunity to take to the stage and perform. The competition celebrated local Grimsby talent giving them a chance to perform at the town centre Christmas lights switch-on and take away £500 worth of prizes!

PIER ATTRACTIONS
Neighbouring Cleethorpes is also enjoying a ‘new renaissance’ with some exciting developments which are already putting it on the national map.

Its historic pier is about to enjoy a new lease of life as an important venue not only for local people but visitors as well. Work started in March to refurbish the iconic seafront venue and now it has a new-look tearoom, a traditional pub, restaurant with panoramic views out to sea and a large multi-functional space that will be home to an events centre offering business conferences, exhibitions and a variety of live entertainment.

Managing director, Simon Huxford, said: “The Pier will replace the gap left in the entertainment market by the closure of the Winter Gardens; our aim is for The Pier to be a successful part of the regeneration of Cleethorpes, to aid increased visitors to the town and support local businesses.”

Hugely experienced chef and restaurateur, TV chef and cookery school founder, Nigel Smith, has been appointed as executive chef for The Pier.

Nigel learned his craft in some of the country’s leading establishments, including The Savoy London, Chester Grosvenor and Royal Ascot. He worked alongside Albert Roux at Guineas Restaurant and won the coveted Restaurant of the Year as executive chef at Churchills Restaurant.

Anne Tate of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce said The Pier is already spreading the town’s name nationwide: “The brand new iconic pier is already attracting national publicity as being a fantastic example of the restoration of an historic pier that will be visited by people coming in to the area as well as local people.”

Cleethorpes is also expecting a huge influx of visitors from all over the world next year having been selected to host the national Armed Forces Day in June 2016, which attracts guests from around the globe.

Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Councillor Ray Oxby, said the announcement further demonstrated the area’s ambition to be a great place to live, work and visit.

He said: “This is terrific news for the borough and will be a great opportunity for us all to showcase the area across the world. Our local Armed Forces Day has previously attracted more than 60,000 people into the area for the weekend to recognise our past and serving military personnel. I’ve no doubt that figure will be dwarfed by hosting the national day. The fact that we’ve been chosen to host the event is a huge feather in our cap.”

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS
With the World Seafood Congress helping to put Grimsby on the worldwide stage and the increasing number of large businesses showing confidence in the area by basing their operations in the town, it is only right that the big-named hotel chains have a presence.

The move by Holiday Inn Express to build an eighty-bedroom hotel in Wellowgate – which opened in July, just in time for the summer season – has already proved fortuitous.

General manager Victoria Allen said they couldn’t have wished for a better start.

“Since we opened we couldn’t have hoped for a better response from the locals and from visitors,” she said.

“We have been open eight weeks and it has been better than our expectations. We thought it would be quite a slow start. But we started off really quickly and we were full on numerous occasions throughout August.

“Our main plan is to keep growing our business and to promote Grimsby as much as we can. The more people we can bring here the better.

“The hotel is still in its early stages but we want to keep improving, to make sure people come to Grimsby and spend their money.”

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