Can this man turn round the fortunes of Sunderland city centre? He thinks so

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THE man charged with spearheading a business revolution in Sunderland city centre has hit the ground running.

Ken Dunbar is the chief executive of the new Business Improvement District (Bid) and is looking froward to getting to grips with the job.

New Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) CEO Ken Dunbar

New Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) CEO Ken Dunbar

“The thing that stood out for me is that it is a very friendly place – wherever you go, people are genuinely very engaged,” he said.

“But there is almost a self-deprecating attitude and that is one of the things that needs to change.”

Ken has been busy with a series of meetings to identify priorities for when the Bid starts formally in April.

“Businesses have been very open. They have huge expectations and one of the things I have got to do is manage that in the short term.”

“I have got ideas about how things can be improved,” he said. “There is a genuine commitment to make this work.

“I can see the areas that need to be improved and the buildings that need to be better looked after, but these are all fixable.

“It is about the owners and the council working together as necessary.

“I have been to a lot of big cities and there just is not the level of friendliness that I have seen here. All told, there are very, very positive signs for me.”

Ken has written to businesses in the Bid area, urging them to let him know what they want to see.

“I am eager to get out and about to speak to businesses and other stakeholders to build a positive relationship and harness the collective wisdom and knowledge you have about Sunderland, together with your ideas for change and improvement,” he says in his letter.

“A huge amount of work has been done so far to bring the Sunderland Bid to fruition and I’m grateful for the efforts of all who have played their part and for the way they have driven the project from inception, to the successful ballot and setting up of the company.

“It is clear that developing a vibrant city centre is at the core of our shared ambition.

“I do feel there couldn’t be a better time for the Business Improvement District to be established here in Sunderland, as the city is going through a further period of transformation with significant infrastructure projects under development.

“This provides a platform on which to grow and develop. I’m aware the Bid cannot do everything, but one of my goals will be to make our collective resources go further for the benefit of all.”

Originally from Kirkcaldy, Ken is the former chief executive of Aberlour – Scotland’s largest children’s charity and was previously chief executive of Castle Morpeth Borough Council, where he oversaw the £40million improvement programme in Morpeth Town Centre.

He will be responsible for leading a project which will see at least £3.4million invested in the city centre over the next five years.