Businesswoman Sarah Loftus is on a mission to make Lincoln even more vibrant and successful – and she’s going to get the ball rolling by having some “BIG conversations” with city businesses.
Lincoln BIG’s new Chief Executive Sarah Loftus told its Annual Meeting that she is thrilled to have taken over the reins from her predecessor Matt Corrigan and eager to get on with the job of telling more people what the organisation does and to give BIG levy payers an even better return for their money.
Sarah spoke to the gathering at The Lawn, after Lincoln BIG Chair Ursula Lidbetter reported on another busy year for the organisation, which has 800 levy payers, and which generated income of £2 million in the year 2017/2018.
A quarter of this income comes from city centre businesses who agree to pay a small levy and the remaining three quarters from Lincoln BIG’s own trading activities and special grant funding for specific projects.
The mum-of three who is originally from Skegness, but who has worked around the UK, in the voluntary, private and public sectors, is delighted to be working in the city where she once spent her pocket money!
“I have had an amazing welcome and since arriving a couple of months ago, I’ve started to get out and about and meet as many of our partners as possible. But I also plan to have some big conversations with our levy payers to see what they want for the future.
“The three challenges I want to focus on are making the city safer, cleaner and greener; animating the City Centre which will make Lincoln the “go to” destination and being transparent about what Lincoln BIG does with the levy.”
Sarah wants to raise awareness of exactly what Lincoln BIG does and believes the organisation has the power to make a difference.
“For example, did you know that the BID brings in £1.6m through its levy, the Shop Lincoln website attracts about 10,000 visitors a month who want to know about our shopping offer and deals, and that in the last month our Wardens returned nearly £1,000 worth of stolen goods back to businesses and also removed half-a-mile of graffiti!
“As you know, the BIG ballot is coming up next year, so I’ve already started talking about this and surveyed our levy payers to find out what they want to see included in our business plan for 2020 to 2025. The results will be available for our December Board Meeting.
“Next year is going to be challenging, but it’s also going to be fun and about thinking BIG for the city. I am looking forward to working with you all.”
Lincoln BIG Chair Ursula Lidbetter also introduced outgoing Chief Executive Matt Corrigan.
“You hear a lot about the death of the High Street, but we have proved that is wrong and we will continue to prove people wrong. There are negatives, that is true in some places. But people come to Lincoln and ask us what is going on, why are we doing so well? On a rainy day you still see hoards of people in the High Street, the place is heaving.
“Some shops have closed, but a lot of new businesses want to come and trade in our city. I am positive about our city going forwards.”
Matt Corrigan, the former Chief Executive, who has been with BIG since 2005 said how much he had enjoyed the challenge of being at the helm at such an important time in the city’s changing history.
“Lincoln is a tremendous place to be. The city has been undergoing a renaissance over the past 20 years. It has a new dynamic and I feel privileged to have been part of it.”
Mr Corrigan referred to Lincoln BIG’s many achievements over the past year and how he had enjoyed working with partners, board members and staff. Although a lot had been achieved, he told Sarah, it is not a case of “job done” but about looking to manage change in the future and continuing to make Lincoln an exciting city to visit, live and work in.
The City of Lincoln Council’s Leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe paid tribute to Matt’s achievements, saying his personal qualities had made him ideal for what is a complex job.
“He is calm and capable, with a combination of quiet determination to get things done. He has been highly successful in bringing people together and getting them pulling in the same direction. Matt has given outstanding leadership and been a force for good.”
Lincoln BIG members were asked to vote to fill two Board vacancies. The poll saw the return of the White Hart’s General Manager Ian Robinson and the appointment of Imp Travel Director Mark Brewer.