Northampton businessman to lobby council for return of shoemakers to town centre as he launches 'best foot forward' campaign
A Northampton businessman wants shoemakers to put their best foot forward as he lobbies the council for their return to the town centre.
Irritated by negative comments and a lack of problem-solving solutions, Steffans Jewellers' Wes Suter has come up with an idea he thinks will revive Northampton town centre.
Through his 'put your best foot forward campaign' Wes hopes to attract shoemakers into the town centre where he hopes they would open factory outlet shops.
"I've had the idea in my head but now is the perfect storm to get it rocking and rolling," said Wes.
"I want to get shoe manufacturers in the town. There are empty units in the town and they have got a product that attracts people in."
He added: "I'm committed to the cause. I'm fed up with people moaning about the town and not coming up with ideas to solve it.
"As a businessman in the town and with no plans to go anywhere soon, I want to help."
Northampton Borough Council offers a 'town centre vacant unit grant' which is available to businesses that meet certain criteria and have a sound business plan.
These businesses could receive a grant of up to a Â£10,000 and the council may consider increasing the amount in exceptional circumstances.
As well as the grant, Wes hopes to work with the council to come up with other incentives for businesses in order to "make sure the carrot is a juicy enough one".
"I'm trying to lobby the council to be able to offer a rent-free period or a rate-free period to entice the shoe factories back into the town."
Northampton's cultural history in shoemaking is well-known, so much so that Wes learned that coaches of Japanese tourists are often taken on tours visiting the area's factories.
He thinks tapping into the tourist market would also help revive the town centre, as would an increased emphasis on independent shops and businesses rather than larger companies.
"We have to got to try and stem the leak and I think the start of this is putting our best foot forward and lobbying the council for the money to help the manufacturers," said Wes.
"I think the other thing is the council haven't yet realised that the big corporations don't care about Northampton, it's just another number to them [corporations].
"That's why they [the council] have got to embrace the independent shops."
"For me it's simple, Northampton is good at four things: the Saints, Silverstone, stately homes and shoes," he added.
"The lowest hanging fruits is the shoes."