Two leading South Lakeland District Council members heard about nearly 20 local businesses and the services they offer.
Cllr Giles Archibald, the leader of SLDC, and Cllr Robin Ashcroft, the council’s Economy, Culture and Leisure portfolio holder, were guests of the Kendal Chapter of BNI (Business Network International), a professional networking organisation, where members meet weekly for breakfast and help each other to find new business by making referrals.
The Kendal Chapter has 20 members, representing a range of businesses. They include an architect, electrical contractor, bathrooms designer and installer, builder and planning consultant.
In the past 12 months the Kendal Chapter has generated £763,926 worth of invoiced business through referrals between its members.
Members usually meet face-to-face at weekly meetings at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal but during the current situation the meetings are being held online.
At this week’s meeting, Cllrs Archibald and Ashcroft, both Liberal Democrats, took part in a question and answer session.
When asked about the future of the tourism and hospitality sector, Cllr Ashcroft said: “The visitor economy is hugely important to the South Lakeland economy.”
He said the recent influx of visitors to the area had led to some well-publicised issues with some people’s behaviour and that needed to be tackled by education.
But he added he understood that 70 per cent of people in the recent influx had never been to the Lake District before. “They are new visitors and that is a tremendous opportunity. There is a new market there and I think that is something we can benefit from.”
He said the council was doing what it could to lobby for some sort of financial support for the hospitality sector, which had been hit by the lockdown.
Asked about what was being done to bring news businesses to the area, Cllr Ashcroft said it was going to be ‘incredibly challenging’ for those running their own businesses. The coronavirus lockdown had accelerated issues which were already happening, including the increase in online shopping.
He said it was important that Kendal became a hub for the whole community, not just somewhere people went for ‘retail therapy’. The area needed to attract more younger people to make it economically viable. There was a need for more start-up business units, such as those planned at Kendal Town Hall and South Lakeland House.
Asked about council finances in the walk of the lockdown, Cllr Archibald said: “We have substantial reserves which will allow us to weather this storm.”
He was confident the council would be able to provide its statutory services and do more besides, adding it had put aside money to help local charities.
The Kendal chapter of BNI is keen to attract visitors so they can find out more about its activities. BNI meetings are free to attend while they are being held online. Anyone interested should contact Alasdair Ross on [email protected] or 078866 250690.
There are also BNI groups at Carlisle and Barrow and starter groups at Ulverston and Windermere.