Concerns over the decline in professional services companies in the Bradford area led to the launch of a business networking group which continues to thrive after its first decade of operation.
The Bradford Professionals Network was founded ten years ago by architect Allan Booth, of Saltaire-based Rance, Smith Booth, to improve communications and information-sharing.
It now has nearly 300 people on its database from 140 professional companies in the district.
Allan and Tim Ratcliffe, a partner at Bradford and Leeds law firm Gordons, held talks with senior Bradford Council officials to express concern about the ‘jobs drain’ from the district due to more professional services firms moving away.
Allan recalled: “We had a strong feeling the professionals in the city don’t have the same networking opportunities or chances to share resources and experiences as professionals in Leeds. We also felt that we needed more dialogue on a regular basis with the Council.
“The view was that the Council regularly utilised services of professionals from outside of the district even though the necessary skills were available in the city itself, and that the professionals lacked a forum for meeting to share knowledge and give them a more powerful sense of belonging, together with the opportunity to cross-sell and promote each other.
“The Council officers were most supportive and readily offered to host a meeting in City Hall, at their expense, in order to explore issues, listen to the views of professionals and to agree a way forward which would benefit not only the professional services sector but also the city of Bradford.”
BPN’s inaugural meeting was held in February 2004, chaired by Mr Booth and attended by more than 100 professionals. It generated a lively debate on issues such as the need for improved parking, better transport links, extra security in the city centre after dark and the possible creation of a commercial quarter.
Mr Booth was the president of the Bradford Society of Architects and Surveyors and it was agreed that the chairmanship of BPN should be held by the president or vice-president of that society. BPN has been chaired by a succession of BSAS past-presidents, including the immediate past chairman Linda Hollings, also a director of Rance Booth Smith.
The network has a ten-strong steering committee with administration support provided by Bradford Chamber of Commerce.
Linda said: “It’s great that the network has been going ten years and has achieved its original objective of creating better links with the Council and providing a forum for professionals to meet.
“The fact that we are still getting around 60 professionals turning up at meetings shows that it is something that people want and find useful.”
The latest meeting was held at Yorkshire Building Society, when its chief economist Andrew McPhillips outlined local and national economic trends.