ON the lapel of John Anderson’s suit jacket is pinned a badge that heralds Darlington as a most ingenious town.

It’s a symbol, he’s keen to point out, that is more than just an intriguing accompaniment to his navy attire.

There’s a lot of meaning, and indeed feeling, he says, about the slogan.

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Mr Anderson is Darlington Borough Council’s assistant director for economic initiatives and, as we sit in his office, he’s keen to expand upon the town’s resourcefulness.

Next month, the authority will oversee Darlington Business Week, a showcase designed to promote the town’s firms, its existing qualities as a hub for industry and how it can be home for new companies across the commercial spectrum in the future.

Mr Anderson says the schedule will include more than 20 free events and activities, including workshops providing advice on innovation, IT and security, marketing and website support, employment law, funding and networking.

More of that networking later.

Organisers have now revealed the programme will be opened by an annual Business Summit, which they say will allow companies the chance to get an overview of the town’s economy and explore the demands and requirements of sectors to ensure future growth.

“We see the event as making a statement”, said Mr Anderson, looking out of his office window towards Darlington’s Dolphin Centre.

“It’s a way to shout about Darlington as a fantastic business location.

“By putting a week of events on, we can highlight the vast range of business support available for companies, from start-up to large organisations, and show potential inward investors what support would be available to them.”

Darlington has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years.

Major operators, such as the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), have joined more long-established operators like engine maker Cummins and Cleveland Bridge, which recently delivered the longest steel girder structures in its 150-year history for an Aberdeen transport project, in the town.

The CPI chose Darlington over more accustomed life science sites like Cambridge to build a £38m National Biologics Manufacturing Centre.

Just a stone’s throw away from Bank Top railway station, it aims to help organisations’ research potentially life-saving cures and vaccines and take their concepts to the market place.

Next door, the new Business Central development is a beating heart for the smaller enterprise community, while elsewhere, the former Feethams bus depot has been transformed into a £30m cinema and restaurant complex.

Such endeavours, says Mr Anderson, are a start.

Working with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, he says the council are as committed as ever in bringing more businesses to the town to build on what he describes as a special networking phenomenon across the town’s commercial landscape.

He said: “We are creating a location for businesses to thrive in Darlington and get new businesses to come here too.

“We don’t run a business but we are focused on creating business conditions and what we can do is manage land, sites and infrastructure.

“We are actively trying to get businesses in and get inward investment into the borough.

“It is a tough market out there (more recently due to Brexit) in terms of foreign direct investment and there is a lot of competition, but one of the great things about businesses in Darlington is that companies will come out and meet these people.

“For us, that’s great because we can say, ‘if you don’t believe us, talk to these guys because they can tell you of their experiences’.”

That’s where the ingenuity comes in, with the Business Week aiming to showcase the Ingenious Darlington brand.

“Delegates at the event will notice the branding on display.

“We absolutely see ourselves as an ingenious place, to not only do business, but also live, work and enjoy leisure time.

“It’s about creating a consciousness that there is a buzz around Darlington because it is a good place to do business.

“One of the things you cannot bottle is the fantastic networking that exists between companies in Darlington.

“If those businesses can thrive independently then that’s great because those are the conditions we are trying to create.

“We don’t get overly paternal, but we do say that if they have an issue let us know and we will help.”

Mr Anderson says he hopes the programme can lead to greater things, including the ending of long-held misconceptions about the town and the region.

In the short-term, he’d like to see companies outside of Darlington to begin realising the town’s potential, while in the long-term he raises the prospect of it hosting sectorbased conferences.

He said: “Could we have a biopharmaceutical conference here? Something like that would certainly help to grow Darlington’s reputation.

“A lot of this is about breaking perceptions.

“The landscape is completely different but we still get people coming up here and saying ‘I expected to see pit heaps’. But once you get people here, those perceptions can change very quickly and that’s where the ingenuity comes in again.

“There is a personality about the town that’s somewhat selfdepreciating but the festival of ingenuity aims to shout about what we are good at.”

However, while ingenuity will form a key part of Darlington Business Week and future programmes, Mr Anderson is also keen to stress the need to focus upon the next generation.

The council has overseen the Foundation for Jobs scheme for a number of years, which aims to tackle youth unemployment.

Led by the authority with support from The Northern Echo and the Darlington Partnership of private firms and public sector organisations, organisers say the national award-winning project has worked with more than 7,000 youngsters since its launch in January 2012.

Mr Anderson said the Business Week will build on that progress, with practical demonstrations across a number of sectors lined up to give teenagers a feel for their future careers and the abilities and temperament employers want in their workforce.

A jobs fair will be held, aimed at Darlington’s eight secondary schools, with businesses attending all recruiting apprentices for next summer.

He added: “We’re keen to involve our young people in this week, so we’ve organised events around apprenticeship opportunities in Darlington.

“We’ve also got activities that highlight future careers in engineering and there will be the chance to find out more about, and get involved in, Experience Darlington, which is the new visitor strategy for the borough.”