STAFF from hundreds of local businesses and organisations gathered at the Dick Lovett BMW showroom on Wednesday night for the Switch On To Swindon Summer Ambassador’s Evening.

The best and brightest of Swindon’s business community chatted and swapped cards to celebrate the success of the initiative, which has seen almost 450 ambassadors join since it launched in January, well-surpassing its initial year-end target of 300.

The event was held to thank the ambassadors for their support and bring them together to brainstorm how they could work together to promote Swindon on a national and even international level through their networks and connections.

The aim of Switch On To Swindon is to promote the town as a great place to live, work and visit by using the successful small and big businesses that have already set up shop here and encourage other businesses to come to the town and invest in it.

This win-win scenario will benefit local businesses and improve the town for residents and consumers, hopefully helping the town thrive and grow.

It will be a lengthy process but the turnout and enthusiasm at Wednesday night’s event was encouraging.

Switch On To Swindon’s head of place marketing Gavin Calthrop was thrilled by the response from the local business community.

He said: “We were overwhelmed by the interest at the launch event and I always worry that that might drop off but I’m delighted by the turnout tonight.

“It’s a great sign that people are coming back and still want to be involved, we want to keep this momentum going.

“This is a chance for people to connect, build relationships and get some business going, plus it’s great to hear some of the ambassadors’ stories in this remarkable venue.

“Dick Lovett is one of Swindon’s major brands and we are delighted to be working with them to host this event.”

There were also workshops for companies at the event about how to improve their Facebook pages, create their own personal brands online, and improve equality and diversity in the workplace.

Kathy Ratcliffe gave a presentation about the latter.

She said: “I grew up here, moved away, then came back last year and got involved with a lot of community groups, there’s a great community in Swindon.

“My passion is bridging community interests with corporate interests and enabling everyone to benefit.”

Alex Pollock, managing director of Social Media Support in Old Town, hosted the other two workshops and is also an ambassador for SOTS.

He said: “We help brands tell their stories online and we’re really pleased to be part of this.

“I was born and bred in Swindon, it’s my home, so the whole ethos behind the campaign and the positive message of what Swindon does and can do is something we really support from both a personal and business perspective.”

The food for the evening was provided by Triple Two Coffee and Pallet Pub provided plenty of Pimm’s.

Gavin summed up the message behind the ambitious initiative: “If Swindon prospers, we all prosper.”

Why it's good to talk about Swindon

THE Dick Lovett showroom was packed full of people from a wide variety of businesses, groups, and organisations who met and mingled to discuss how they could improve the town and entice other companies to the area.

Dick Lovett Group corporate manager Bruce Lewis was proud to support Switch On To Swindon and was very happy that the event was so well-attended.

He said: “I’m really impressed by the turnout, it’s very encouraging. There’s a lot of doom and gloom about the markets at the moment but this shows that people are interested in improving things and driving things forward.

“What’s great about this event is it’s purely networking, talking to people about how they can help each other and how Dick Lovett can help them.

“That community feeling works very well and does us all good.”

Guests included John Davies from Thrings Solicitors, manager of Regent Circus and The Parade Steve Bisley, Swindon Festival of Literature organiser Matt Holland, and Debbie Clark from the Jessie May charity.

Also attending the event was Martin Rees, founder and CEO of Bluebird Innovation Group, which has been developing electric vehicles for 20 years.

He said: “We’re relatively new to this, we joined three months ago. I think it’s a great idea and it’s exactly the kind of thing that Swindon needs, as long as it’s open-facing.

“The global connections I have are a good platform to advertise the benefits of Swindon.

“It’s great to get the opportunity to evangelise all that is good about the town, encourage global investment and get companies to recognise that Swindon is a unique destination for them to consider.”

The Adver’s editor Gary Lawrence said: “It was great to see so many people at the ambassadors’ event this week, there’s a real momentum to the Switch on to Swindon initiative and the passion people have for the town and the businesses they are running within it was plainly evident. 

“I spoke to a lot of people who were really upbeat about Switch on to Swindon and are keen to see what it can do for the town.

“They, and I, are looking forward to seeing more positive marketing of the town and the lifestyle it offers so that we can change some of the perceptions the rest of the country has about it.”

Brian Smith, business development manager for SMARTech Energy, was very enthusiastic about the Switch On To Swindon initiative.

He said: “This is fantastic, it’s nice to be part of something that’s growing and growing, it’s really good for local businesses and the Swindon community as a whole.

“Ultimately, we want to build a really vibrant business community where we all help each other out and encourage other businesses around the country to join us.”

Thamesdown Transport general manager Alex Chutter spoke at the event about the big changes that have taken place since the bus service was bought from Swindon Borough Council by the Go-Ahead Group in February.

Alex said: “We are very proud to become an ambassador of Switch On To Swindon.

“We’ve started repainting the buses at a rate of one a week, we’ve implemented new routes, including one route to Royal Wootton Bassett and more frequent visits to the town centre, and soon Thamesdown Transport will be called Swindon’s Bus Company.”

There were also stalls promoting a new SafeWise Safety Centre in Wroughton, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, the Swindon Half-Marathon, and a proposed new multi-million pound Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

SOTS chairperson Jenny Groves said: “I started this role six months ago and it’s been absolutely fantastic.

"We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that has been shown, it shows that Swindon is really embracing this campaign.”