TRADE Minister Lord Green came to Blackburn with Darwen yesterday and told the borough’s Hive network it was ‘an outstanding example’ of companies working together which the government wanted replicated nationwide.

He told businessmen gathered at Graham and Brown’s Stanley Street headquarters he was bowled over by their “energy, enthusiasm and creativity”.

As he left, Lord Green said: “I shall be working with Hive to promote businesses in Blackburn with Darwen and help them boost their exports.”

Lord Green was guest of honour at the network of borough business leaders’ second event which chairman Khalid Saifullah, director of Star Tissue UK, described as a feather in the six-month old organisation’s cap.

Mr Saifullah outlined Hive’s aim of making Blackburn “a world-class town” building on its manufacturing heritage, young and ethnically diverse workforce and creative and innovative business community.

Graham and Brown chief executive Andrew Graham and Lucite International materials general manager Rowena Sellens gave presentations on how their companies built on their Blackburn and Darwen history to produce products exported world-wide.

Former HSBC Bank boss Lord Green, exports minister in both the Business Department and Foreign Office, addressed the company bosses before taking questions with Blackburn MP Jack Straw.

He said: “I am delighted to be in Blackburn with Darwen to address the Hive network. It is an outstanding example of just what we need.

“Hats off to Hive and its energy and creativity.

“As a government we want to promote businesses working together, helping each other and sharing expertise, especially in terms of small and medium-sized enterprises breaking into new export markets.

“You are an example to the rest of the country. There is nothing I have seen going round Britain better than this.”

Lord Green praised the way larger, export-led companies like Graham and Brown and Lucite were helping smaller companies into the export market through Hive. He said overseas trade was the way out of the current economic difficulties, capitalising on Britain’s world-class reputation for quality.

He was tackled by East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mike Damms and by Peter Street, boss of the Cardboard Box Company in Clayton-le-Moors, on the need for larger, and more reliable capital tax reliefs for investment. He replied that he felt the current company tax regime was the best it had ever been.

ABOVE: Speakers at the second Hive event

Lord Green told the Lancashire Telegraph: “Hive is one of the best examples of businesses working together I have ever seen. I came to Blackburn with Darwen at Jack Straw’s invitation to show that the borough, East Lancashire and manufacturing are important to the government. I intend to work with Hive in future to promote the area and its products worldwide.”

Mr Straw said: “I was delighted that Lord Green came. This is the beginning of a relationship. I shall make sure of that.”

Mr Damms said: “This was an important visit. We intend to work with Lord Greem to promote local businesses and exports in the future.”