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40 years of the IED: David Nicholls


In the second of a series of articles featuring influential IED people and projects from our proud history dating back to 1983, we hear from David Nicholls, an IED member for 34 years, former Chair of the Institute’s North West branch, and member of the then ‘National Council’.

I am proud and privileged to have been involved in the early years of the IED and, despite being retired now, still follow the organisation’s continuing development and evolution.

As a former Chair of the North West branch and a national IED board member, all marshalled by the formidable Stephanie Wakefield, the one word that I would use to describe the group during my time with the Institute would be “driven”.

I joined the IED in November 1989 whilst I was with Blackburn Borough Council, encouraged by my Director of Economic Development Dennis Artess and Chief Executive Steve Jones. I was appointed branch Chair in 1991 (I think!) and set about cajoling members from across the region onto the executive function of the branch. 

The North West branch had, as I recall, more original members than the other branches. The geographical area was vast covering Cumbria, Lancashire (inc. East Lancs and West Lancs), Merseyside and the Wirral, Greater Manchester and Thameside and Cheshire. I wanted the executive to mirror and represent the geography of the region and its different needs. 

So, the membership I recruited consisted, over time and change, the following (from memory): Barbara Mothershaw (Cheshire), Bill Kindon (Lancaster), Derek Sutton (Wirral), Jack Stopford (Cumbria), Kate Smyth (Lancs), Peter Toner (Merseyside) and Steve Hoyle (East Lancs). There were probably more people who were involved, and I have forgotten to name here. 

Being North West branch Chair entitled me to a seat on IED National Council, which I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in. The Board consisted of some quite exceptional individuals in the field of economic development and we had some very lively discussions. 

As well as Stephanie, the likes of, but not in any particular order, Peter Gresham, Colin Lomax, Kate Smyth, Simon Hurrel, Lin Evens, Malcolm Perrins, Alan Bruce, Alan French and Richard Hindle. All, without exception, were totally committed to the economic development cause and passionate about the IED and driving forward our agenda. 

Main topics of the days, again taken from memory, and always on the agenda were: The IED Education Trust (led by Peter and Stephanie), raising the profile of the IED at local, regional and national levels, lobbying national government, RDAs, funding (both domestic and EU structural funding), training providers/LSCs etc, developing learning tools and qualifications for economic development practitioners and people starting/entering into the profession. 

As today, we championed the cause that economic development in local government should be a statutory instrument and not non-statutory. 

Having joined Lancashire Enterprises in 1995, I continued serving on the IED Board until 1999-2000 until additional work commitments, job changes and geographical location forced me to step down. From the role I have good memories and am immensely proud of how the organisation has since moved into its current iteration. I was made an Honorary member in 2013. Busy, busy times and just fantastic to be involved.