Dear Grimbarians (and Meggies*)

Grimsby has been found to have the highest proportion of profitable businesses in Britain. The local MP isn't at all surprised...
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You and I have known for years that Grimsby is a good place to do business. So the news that it is the best place to make a profit is no sudden discovery for us, whatever consternation it has caused to condescending southerners. They think Grimsby is the back of beyond, which is why they are now professing such amazement at how well we do.

Like you, I sometimes wish that the Scandinavian god who gave us our name had been called "Happy" or "Nice" or "Beauty". If only he had had Peter Mandelson or some less skilled PR person to advise him. Grim isn't the best of images. Yet we're far from it, and it does indicate our toughness and determination.

Grimsby Council has shown a lot of both in encouraging industry, bringing investment and in working with business to get the best for the town and firms who come there. It has promoted us as Europe's food town - the biggest concentration of food production, cold storage and technical expertise, and gateway to the EU. That's the kind of effort that helps business.

These days you have to work at profitability. We have. So have the firms that have come and constantly upgraded performance and products with the kind of investment that Birds Eye, Ross Young's and Blue Crest are putting into ever better dishes and more added value, or the massive investment at Courtaulds which is developing its new material Tercel in Grimsby in the face of competition from all over Europe.

Industry is profitable because Grimsby is a good place to invest. It's got sites for development, a willing and hard working labour force and good communications - the port makes us the gateway to Europe. We're also a good place to live. The best, in my view, as well as being the cultural capital of the South Bank (of the Humber), not to mention Lincolnshire.

But something like this isn't unalloyed good news. Capital is profitable in Grimsby because wages are lower and unemployment higher, particularly for men. Food processing means more jobs for women while nearly one in five men is unemployed. Low wages make us a big company town with lower purchasing power for retailers and small firms. There will be wry smiles on Freeman Street that Dun and Bradstreet are telling us how profitable business is just as KP are closing down production of crisps and Hula Hoops, because it's not profitable enough as supermarkets squeeze producers.

Profitability isn't all good news but it is an opportunity. Business is profitable, so more will come. We'll welcome it with open sites and every help.

Perhaps we've been too modest. We've kept quiet about what a good place Grimsby is to live in case everyone wants to come. Yet it's time to tell the world about this because when you're as profitable as we are there's nowhere to go but up. Let's Grow with Grimsby. To steal that lovely laxative image from the Labour Party.

Austin Mitchell

* For the benefit of southern readers, these are people from Cleethorpes.

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