Bondholders have played a key role in shaping our city

From left to right: Howard Ebison, Head of Customer Service at East Midlands Airport and Lindsey Hatfield, Commercial Development Manager at Marketing Derby.

From left to right: Howard Ebison, Head of Customer Service at East Midlands Airport and Lindsey Hatfield, Commercial Development Manager at Marketing Derby.

Last month, Marketing Derby achieved an important milestone when East Midlands Airport signed up as our 250th Bondholder. I must say, our Bondholders are a pretty amazing lot. These businesses pay an annual fee to support our work in raising the profile of the city in order to attract investment.

Back in 2007, when we launched the initiative, there were many raised eyebrows. Would local businesses really put their hands in their pockets to see Derby promoted? And, if so, why? What was in it for them? The idea behind Marketing Derby is remarkably simple. Derby needs to attract inward investment, to create local employment and improve the city's vibrancy. Truth is, had we sat back and waited for the phone to ring, we would have had a pretty quiet life. Investors were not sitting in their Mayfair offices, pouring over maps of the Midlands, plotting their entry into Derby. We knew we needed to be proactive in promoting our case.

Ten years ago, Derby opened a new chapter, launching an ambitious masterplan to attract £2 billion and create 10,000 jobs. The years of hiding out light under a bushel were well and truly over. Little old Derby was developing a swagger, discovering a confidence and energy that attracts investment.

Our recent Bondholder event hosted by Sinfonia Viva in its new mobile events venue on Cathedral Green

Marketing Derby was created as a joint initiative by Derby City Council and a small group of forward-thinking local business leaders. The Bondholder scheme was intended to use the essential income we receive from Derby City Council to lever support from the business community, thus creating an inward investment model pretty much unique to Derby to this day.

We launched Bondholders at the home of our first member, Rolls-Royce. Clearly, to establish credibility in the marketplace we needed the support of the big three employers: Bombardier, Rolls-Royce and Toyota. However, we quickly broadened to include the many small businesses who remain members to this day.

Our Bondholder companies showcase the best of Derby businesses - sole traders to global giants; creatives, professional services and engineers; leisure and retail; community and cultural. These companies can now look at the transformation of the city and know that they have played a part. Bondholders is also a vibrant business club. Each year, we host about 40 Bondholder events, from roundtables of ten with the Bank of England, to 700 attending our Christmas Ball. The insight our events provide into Derby businesses is nothing less than astonishing - from a recent tour of the new Derby Manufacturing Technical College, through a concert on Cathedral Green with Sinfonia Viva on a hot July afternoon, to a much anticipated question-and-answer session with Derby County's Mel Morris and Sam Rush tomorrow - Bondholders are the best informed people on what makes the city economy tick. 

In June, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Derby City Partnership at a packed event in QUAD arts centre. There was much talk of Derby's partnership ethos being manifested in the longevity of that initiative. Some cities never do partnership; others only when told to by government.

Since the attraction of Toyota in 1989, Derby has been evolving its public and business leader relationships with a shared focus on bringing benefits to the city. My role involves constant contact with people new to the city and I can honestly say this is something frequently commented on. 

This month, we welcome two new investors, the Moorfield Group, which spent £16.5million purchasing the Riverlights complex, and legal firm Knights, which will employ 30 people on Pride Park. Their first action on coming to town? To become leaders that showcase and shape the city of the future, that is, new Bondholders.