Well good riddance to 2020 and 2021 is not looking great currently. So, time for a bit of good news.
Ultimate Products from Oldham is a British success story which focuses on consumer products (think kettles and cookers). It’s a very competitive market but Ultimate Products is good at what it does. Like other companies it could focus on the bottom line and forget the town in which it is based. But it doesn’t.
Oldham, like many northern towns, suffers from an exodus of talent as young graduates seek their fortune in the bigger cities. Ultimate Products has set up a graduate training programme, providing career development opportunities to encourage graduates to work in the town.
It gets better. Throughout the pandemic it has contributed generously to the local initiative Action Together, sourcing essential supplies for struggling families.
Through Regenda, the local housing organisation, it has provided starter home kits for their newly-housed residents. When it became clear it could survive the economic consequences of the virus, it repaid £475,000 in Government grants (Sir Phillip Green hang your head in shame).
Working closely with Positive Steps, Ultimate Products has donated 150 tablets to young carers and young people, to ensure that despite lockdown they can still access education and avoid loneliness by keeping in touch with peers.
What is evident is that the owners of Ultimate Products believe in Oldham and want to be part of its future. It is a generous sponsor of Mahdlo, the local Youth organisation, and is an active partner of Northern Roots, a dynamic project to create the UK’s largest farm and eco-park in the heart of the town. It even contributed to the Annie Kenney appeal to build a statue to a former mill girl from the town and one of the most effective suffragettes.
Why does it do this? Simon Showman, the chief executive of the company, who started his working life on the local Tommyfields market, has a simple explanation: ‘If the town thrives we thrive. Oldham has been good to us and we want to give something back.’
Now if only every town had an Ultimate Products...
Paul Wheeler is director of the Political Skills Forum and writes on local politics