A Burnley businessman is helping breathe new life into one of the town's most iconic buildings.
Mr Mark Crabtree OBE, owner of Burnley Oscar-winning audio giant AMS Neve, has today announced plans to transform the former Burnley Grammar School building into a thriving, hi-tech hub for digital SMEs and micro-businesses.
A former pupil of Burnley Grammar, Mark is investing a seven-figure sum, his own money, into creating a unique collaborative workspace for digital start-ups, SME’s and allied businesses, helping to secure the future digital economy of his home town and support the growing Digital Lancashire initiative.
The Landmark Burnley, which will see tech giants Microsoft and Google coming to the town, is set to open its doors to the first wave of digital businesses in September, with impressive plans that will see the historic Grade 2 listed former grammar school in School Lane become the show piece of Burnley’s thriving tech economy.
Work is due to begin on the town centre site next week and Mark said: “The Landmark project is a way to help Burnley grow its digital skills base, and for that not to ‘leak’ out to say Manchester but keep the talent and skill in Burnley. In the past, people starting businesses used to need money to buy machinery, hence the grants process.
"Now they need a laptop, an idea and somewhere other than their kitchen table to work. But the point is, they want to work with like minds, and having social gathering spaces to encourage each along.”
Mark added: “The Landmark will also have allied businesses in situ, a small presence of lawyers and accountants in a move that means those professions will be on hand to assist the young companies grow and flourish. The building is absolutely amazing, very atmospheric and lends itself to being a great place to work in an area that has fantastic lifestyle advantages too.”
The project, which has been over a year in the making, germinated from Mark’s role as chairman of the influential Burnley Bondholders.
Mark’s partner in running the operation of the Landmark space is David Walker, managing director and founder of digital marketing company +24Marketing.
Mark and Dave met through the Bondholder network and had held many discussions about digital skills needs and opportunities for the local economy.
David is delighted that the development is now going ahead. “It’s an inspiring building and we're going to create an inspiring work place and help Burnley be 'the' place to work for the techies!”
“We know how incredibly difficult it can be to get the connections you need in business, it took me years to pull in my first big client. We will be able to speed up companies’ growth by having the connections Burnley businesses need.
"If someone in The Landmark is struggling to break into Manchester for instance, we will be able to help by say getting them into The Landing at Media City to work from there for a couple of weeks, making contacts and networking from there.
"It will really help the business development process. This will be about creating a community, creating a family. Many cities already do this with co-working hubs but what they won't have is the passion of the Burnley people and that spirit we have of wanting to have Burnley at the top of the class.”
Workspace in The Landmark, which will open to its first wave of members and tenants in early September, will accommodate around 60 businesses of varying sizes from the start up micro with one person, through to established digital businesses.
David added: “This is going to be the best thing that will ever have happened to helping the digital business sector in Burnley and to encouraging other tech companies from outside the town to use The Landmark .
"We want it to be the number one destination for our industry, putting Digital Burnley amongst the leaders in inspirational work spaces.”