EAST Lancashire’s business excellence is one the UK’s best kept secrets.

That’s according to the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Miranda Barker, who has overseen a successful first 12 months after taking the reins from Mike Damms after his 23 years at the helm.

The chamber is a national centre of excellence for its training support programmes, especially its CIPS (Chartered Institute Procurement and Supply) training and its International Trade Club.

And Ms Barker says the businesses in her patch don’t get the recognition they deserve, something the chamber and the whole business community is trying to change.

She said: “The chamber has about 800 members and we impact about 5,700 businesses nationally and the success of the businesses is there for all to see.

“My patch covers BAE in Samlesbury to Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick and everything in between.

“We have world-class industry, aerospace and Oscar-winning technology. It’s the best kept secret in the UK and it’s just wrong.

“It doesn’t make sense but I think the further removed from the centre of London you are, the less they have the correct perception of our lifestyle, culture, the way our communities feel and our world class industries.

“We are world class when it comes to manufacturing. In this area, manufacturing over 13 quarters is up in terms of commercial performance and exporting.

“So many companies are selling to 40,50,60 companies in the world. And that has been the under-pinning support across the country for the last few years.We have companies that are literally leading the world.

“Mike (Damms) would say that Lancashire business has always been successful, that Lancashire manufacturing has always been doing so very well in terms of global performance. It’s just that the rest of the world changed around it and pulled away. But now we are seeing the recognition of the importance of that and with costs rising in overseas manufacturing, such as in the Far East, we are seeing much more work coming back.

“But with things like the engineering sector and new vaping businesses cropping up, it’s proof that we have the ability to keep pace with changing industry as well. It isn’t just that we are good at aerospace.

“If you look at a firm like Emerson and Renwick, they have created cutting edge technology to make flexible solar panels.

“If you look at Mark Crabtree, at AMS Neve. He’s a Burnley boy who has two Oscars and a number of other awards. Every film in last year’s Oscars used his technology in their production.

“Vaping is a new industry. Vampire Vape (Flavour Warehouse) are working with companies across the globe to help them get their quality up. That’s not just setting an example locally, that’s setting an example globally.

“We have a whole combination of things. We have a long history in terms of manufacturing excellence. So when you turn around to a council or a developer in an area and say I want to bring this business here and we need a shed and we need transport, we get that in Lancashire. Some areas just don’t.

“We have welcoming, open, manufacturing-orientated local authorities across the whole of East Lancashire.

“That kind of success breeds success and we have a cluster of firms who excel in manufacturing. But it’s not the old metal-bashing, it’s now right up into the brand new technologies.”

But Ms Barker pointed at one borough in particular who she says has “broken the mould” in promoting its town to the world.

She added: “I have had companies ringing me from Switzerland and Russia because they want to relocate to Burnley. The manufacturing excellence and economic development drive really has been communicated through the Burnley Bondholders.

“That’s an alliance between companies and the council. It started off when they were in absolute turmoil and dire straits in terms of housing, employment, industry and local community divisions.

“When they started off, they didn’t try to create a business club.

“They said we, collectively, the council and business, believe in the potential of Burnley to be a successful local economy and place to live. And they invested in that aspiration. It was very altruistic. It was a long-term investment to drive the local community forward because they knew they could do it.

“And that’s what they are now seeing.They are filling every piece of employment land they open. Businesses are expanding. They’re at full employment, they have a thriving town centre.

“I was with Mick Cartledge (Burnley Council chief executive) the other day and he was going over all the things he is involved in and I just told him that when he finished at the end of the week, to sit down with cup of tea and allow himself to feel smug for a few minutes. He’s dealing with loads of things but he needs to sit back and take pride as it’s a real example to the rest of Lancashire.”