THE people of Hartlepool have a key role to play in the future of their town.
They could choose to head up the A19 to other shopping venues. Many do.
They could head south to big towns such as Middlesbrough and spend their hard-earned cash there. Many do.
Or they could do something different and re-acquaint themselves with Hartlepool, said Mark Rycraft, the manager of the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
And if they stopped in town, they will probably find exactly the same product that they travelled dozens of miles to buy.
Today, in a rallying call to the stay-away people of Hartlepool, Mr Rycraft called for more support for the product on their doorstep.
And just as importantly, they will be giving more strength to a mystical object he called “The Hartlepool Pound.”
He backed our brand new campaign and said: “This is an amazing opportunity. Local traders such as the ones we have in the Indoor Market Hall within the shopping centre, are always going to be at risk unless they get money in their tills.
“Our job is to make Middleton Grange a competitive shopping environment and a profitable one.”
It doesn’t matter if customers are using small independent traders or the larger national retailers in Middleton Grange. There’s a misunderstanding over this, said Mr Rycraft.
Use one and you might want to use them all for a full shopping experience, he added.
“The point is that they are supporting business in the town. They are the anchor retailers and the reason why people come in.”
Middleton Grange has 150 shop units and the vast majority are filled. More than 400 people work in the centre, making it one of the biggest employment hubs in the town.
The businesses within Middleton Grange range from major store chains to food outlets, sweet shops to book stores and opticians to cosmetic shops.
Each has an important part in creating a town centre “family”, said Mr Rycraft.
But the only way they can thrive is by local people supporting their local traders - and not by shunning Hartlepool for out-of-town retail parks or other shopping destinations.
“It’s easy to jump in a car, head up the A19 or go to Middlesbrough to go shopping. People forget what is available on their doorstep,” Mr Rycraft added.
More support came from Antony Steinberg, the economic development manager at Hartlepool Borough Council.
He praised the diverse range of offers in town, but he did it with a warning to local people - use them to make sure they grow and we might just pull in even more investors.
Mr Steinberg added: “There is a broad range of retail, leisure and shopping offer in the town. The more we can encourage local residents to utilise and benefit from these markets, the more prosperous the town will become.
“It will help to diversify the offer and help to attract investors in.”
Mr Steinberg added: “If people utilise everything that is available on their doorstep, they will help to encourage economic growth and improve the overall offer to help the town attract investors.”
Andrew Steel the co-ordinator of the Hartlepool Business Forum, urged everyone to consider putting Hartlepool first whenever they shopped or chose any sort of product.
He added: “The primary function of the Forum is to encourage business networking and the ultimate aim is better trading between members.
“I am right behind the notion of this campaign. We should all have an objective of encouraging our businesses and encouraging people to put Hartlepool first.
“Whenever we go forward, we should try to think of how we could put a Hartlepool company first. Then. it is a better opportunity for us all and for all Hartlepool businesses to win contracts.”
Mr Steel, who is also assistant principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, said helping one company would help all. He added: “A rising tide raises all boats.”
Our new campaign also won the backing of two more groups which represent the town’s business community.
Pam Hargreaves, the chairman of the town branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The economy benefits from spending pounds locally. If people do that, the benefits tend to be tenfold.
“Every £1 spent in Hartlepool means local employment and local trade. It supports a vibrant economy. We are fully behind this.”
The networking organisation Women What Do, based in Hartlepool, is a business group exclusively for female entrepreneurs.
Steering group member Janice Auton said: “There are lots of female business people involved in the network who just trade within Hartlepool.
“It is particularly relevant to them as a network of female business people.
“We would support this campaign, get behind it and hope that all of our members do the same, and benefit from it. We want people to try and spend their money locally.”