B2B International
B2B International

March 9, 2006

Wigan

Good land, good labour and a proactive council …no longer just flat caps, pies and Wigan Pier

The advantages of Wigan as a potential investment location are the attractive costs of land and labour and a council that is seen as proactive. What was once thought to be an industrial town is now seen as a thriving place for a multitude of industry types to move to, according to findings in a new market research report from B2B International.

Wigan is an old industrial town surrounded in the North West by the commercial centres of Manchester, Liverpool and Chester. In the past, Wigan has suffered long term declines in its staple industries of mining, textiles and their supporting and downstream industries. As the traditional industries have declined, Wigan has struggled to attract the levels of business investment required to fully regenerate its economy, particularly in relation to some of its more deprived areas.

Wigan Council commissioned business-to-business market research specialists B2B International to carry out research in 2003 and also in 2005 to assist it in developing a strategy to help Wigan compete with surrounding regions and improve the economic performance of the borough. B2B carried out interviews with developers and agents in the North West as well as 200 interviews with potential movers (businesses who are looking to move or expand into new premises in the next 3 years) and past movers (businesses who are not considering moving but moved into their location within the last 10 years).

Choosing A Location To Relocate To
The top influencing factors for relocation that came out of the study were, not surprisingly, availability of relevant site or premises, adequate car parking and cost or rent of premises. However, the wish list is a demanding one and locations need to fulfil a large number of needs that businesses are looking for including a wide ranging labour force skill base, a plentiful supply of labour, motorway access, ease of access to ports (airports and seaports) and financial assistance in relocating.

Heinz is the dominant employer in the area

Wigan As A Business Location
Wigan has always been seen as an appealing location for manufacturing and engineering-focused companies but it has now started to develop a mixed economy with food, distribution and service companies. Heinz is the dominant employer in the area and has recently re-affirmed its commitment to the town with a recent investment of £100m to modernise its operations. The success of Heinz has attracted a supporting raft of food and drink processing companies, with the distribution industry also taking advantage of Wigan’s location next to the M6.

The strengths of Wigan as a location for attracting business are its availability and price of land as well as its large and diverse workforce. Comparing the two periods of research, it is interesting to see that businesses, when relocating, place a greater importance today than four years ago on the quality of life of their surroundings and the image the location portrays of their business. In the eyes of businesses who are looking to relocate, Wigan ticks all the right boxes.

Wigan's JJB Staduim

The Changing Perceptions of Wigan
Wigan is associated with a wide variety of activities and issues, many of which hark back to its industrial past. Whilst in the past it was known for its image of pie and chips, cloth caps, whippets and mining, it is now more likely to be associated with the successful rugby and football teams at the JJB stadium and the large corporates such as Heinz and The Tote choosing Wigan as their business location.

Wigan – A Fresh Future
B2B director Nick Hague believes that future opportunities for Wigan and the surrounding borough look healthy. “Wigan’s competitive property and labour rates can be used to attract businesses who are put off by prices in Warrington, Preston and other nearby towns. If you are thinking of relocating your business in the future, think Wigan.â€?