Independent Middlesbrough mayoral candidate Andy Preston has pledged his first year’s salary to a range of innovative projects – starting with a Dragon’s Den-style business enterprise competition among the town’s schools.
The Middlesbrough-born businessman – who’s the featured interview in the first issue of our Tees Business magazine – says he is willing to forego his salary for his first year in office to help launch a number of schemes designed to kick-start the town.
Preston, who runs several businesses and two charities in the town, said: “I’m not standing for mayor for the money or because I need a job – but because I believe I can do some good for my hometown.
“During my first year in office I’d aim to get several projects going, starting with an enterprise competition among schools.
“The scheme might cost £20,000 to launch,” he said. “There’s no money spare within the council, so I’ll look for sponsorship from local businesses.
“If we win sponsorship then I’ll redirect that element of my salary into another project for the good of Middlesbrough. Otherwise, I’ll use part of my mayor’s salary to fund it in the first year.
“I’ve thought long and hard about donating my first year’s salary, as I don’t believe the mayor’s role should be solely for wealthy people. However, I’m absolutely committed to making this and other schemes work for Middlesbrough.”
Preston believes promoting entrepreneurial skills to create more new business start-ups is critical to kick starting job creation in the town.
He says it is crucial to “light a spark” in the minds of young people to encourage enterprise and business start-ups.
If elected, he plans to create annual school competitions challenging pupils to come up with business ideas and operate them in the local community.
Explaining his idea, Preston added: “We’ve got at least as much talent for great business ideas and making money here in Middlesbrough as anywhere else in the country.
“But we don’t have an entrepreneurial culture to anything like the necessary scale. In fact, Middlesbrough has half as many business start-ups as other areas in the country.
“It’s a problem that won’t be easy to solve but getting kids to think about enterprise and to have an entrepreneurial spirit is an important first step.
“It’s a way of helping to push ideas for creating money, jobs and self-reliance. It’s about lighting the spark in young people’s minds to go out there and do it themselves.
As mayor, Preston says he would create a primary and secondary schools competitions, with each school competing to win a prize by creating the best business idea.
Preston, who founded Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation that has raised £800,000 for local community groups over the past four years, plans to appoint a business mentor to each school.
He said: “We’ll get successful local business people to mentor the students and then help judge which schools came up with the best idea – whether that’s how much money they made, how creative it was or how much good it did in their community.
“They’ll need to put a business plan together and consider how they’ll promote their business but ultimately it’s about getting young people to think about what’s involved in starting and running a business.
“Naturally, we’d be looking for ideas with more innovation, energy and profit from the secondary school students, but we’d put some great prizes for the winning years in each school – maybe a trip to Flamingo Land or London.”
The Middlesbrough mayoral election takes place on May 7, the same day as the General Election.