Partnership is central to city’s progress

Edinburgh's city centre is undergoing continual development and improvement
Edinburgh's city centre is undergoing continual development and improvement
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Ford’s perfect blueprint for any organisation that wants to get people working together suits us just fine, writes Roddy Smith

Henry Ford knew a thing or two about successful team building. And the philosophy of the man who helped transform the way we live was: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Team-work and partnership were pivotal to the creator of the Ford car-building empire, and in Edinburgh that approach continues to pay enormous dividends for our city centre.

We’re seeing that partnership approach – involving amongst others businesses, the City of Edinburgh Council, business organisations and the Scottish Government – deliver major successes for our city, such as:

• A burgeoning reputation as a leading UK retail destination, set to be further enhanced after the massive £850 million Edinburgh St James development gets under way later this year

• An established reputation as the world’s leading festival city, further enhanced by the success of our Hogmanay events and, this year in particular, our Edinburgh’s Christmas event

• Edinburgh continues to be one of Europe’s leading visitor destinations, and partnership working has seen many new international travellers come to our city thanks to the new routes being opened up by Edinburgh International Airport

That commitment to working together is an approach I hope to build on as I take on my new role as chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, the city centre’s business improvement district (BID), in a year of enormous potential for our capital.

A number of key challenges will face the city centre in the coming months and years – such as working to ensure that the exciting and very welcome development at Edinburgh St James in the east compliments developments and opportunities in our west end; such as further refining how our city centre makes best use of the opportunities our festivals present; such as building the bulk buying power of our 600 levy paying businesses in the city centre to improve business performance and create an even better environment and ambience for residents, visitors and businesses.

Essential Edinburgh has been playing an important role in all of this, seeing the city centre’s businesses “put their money where their collective mouths are” to the tune of investing £1 million a year into the city centre.

The work taken on to date has been well received. My predecessor, Andy Neal, deserves great credit and oversaw the recent renewal ballot for the BID, securing massively improved support from amongst businesses in the process, and since then has helped develop and deliver the £1m post-tram relaunch of the city centre through the award-winning “This is Edinburgh” campaign in conjunction with Marketing Edinburgh and City of Edinburgh Council.

This is another fantastic example of partnership working having a real and positive effect on delivering results for the city centre.

Following Andy’s successful spell as head of Essential Edinburgh will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I am relishing.

This is a wonderful city and a wonderful professional opportunity. I will work tirelessly to carry forward the excellent work to date by Andy Neal, the board and the dedicated professional staff of Essential Edinburgh.

In that spirit of co-operation I will work closely with all of our partners to drive the organisation forward in the next phase of its development.

My last job was at Cricket Scotland, where I was chief executive for a decade. Although a different business sector from Essential Edinburgh, many challenges were very similar.

The need to work for your members, delivering change and progress where total consensus is unusual, finding imaginative ways to fund initiatives, running high quality events and importantly working with partners where you share common goals.

During my time we managed to deliver significant change throughout the sport and governing body. Many successful partnerships with the private and public sector were formed and were essential to support and drive Cricket Scotland’s membership, long term development and teams.

Coming from a sporting background, you won’t be surprised at my firm belief in teamwork and the importance of working together. In just a short period of time in post, I have been delighted to see and hear the positivity of all our partner bodies and businesses to the work of Essential Edinburgh.

We face some big challenges in the next few years, but we face these with a solid base of progress behind us, a positive and established partnership approach throughout the city and the shared will to drive Edinburgh forward.

Roddy Smith is chief executive of Essential Edinburgh