Image of the audience attending a Graduation ceremony

Jack Stopforth MBE

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Jack Stopforth for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

Jack is being honoured today for his outstanding contribution to the regeneration of Liverpool over many years and currently through his role as Chief Executive of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. His work ethos and involvement with several key agencies in the city has helped to stimulate the economy and has contributed immensely to the improvement of Liverpool's physical infrastructure.   

John Stopforth, better known as "Jack", was born in Walton in North Liverpool in 1951, the son of George and Edie Stopforth. 

After Croxteth Primary School, he attended St Margaret's CE High School in Aigburth. There he did well academically and excelled at football. He captained the school team and represented Liverpool Boys, played for Merseyside Grammar Schools and signed for Burnley, intent on a career as a professional footballer. But he was persuaded by his persistent headmaster, Mr John Naylor, to complete his A Levels, after which he studied for a BA History and Government at Manchester Polytechnic. 

Following graduation, he studied for a Masters degree in Local Government Management at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He graduated in 1973, having written a dissertation examining the impact on local government of membership of the European Economic Community.   

The same year, after abandoning plans to do a PhD at Birmingham, he took a job as an executive assistant with Hounslow Borough Council before becoming Economic Development Manager of the newly established Merseyside Development Office in London with the task of selling Liverpool in the capital. This really sparked his interest in economic development, which was put to good effect two years later when he was appointed as Head of Economic Development at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. His role was to lead on inward investment and act as a champion for SMEs, promoting their growth through a mixture of grants and incentives.   

This turned out to be a great career move, despite 24 year-old Jack feeling distinctly out of his depth. It was a case of 'sink or swim', with Jack able to survive on the basis of the networks he established and which incidentally he still has.  

In 1978, still in his twenties, he became Marketing Manager for MERCEDO, Merseyside County Economic Development Office, and in 1981 became Chief Economic Adviser to the Merseyside County Council. 

When the metropolitan counties were abolished in 1986, Jack became chairman and MD of Stopforth Bright Anderson Limited which became one of the best Public Affairs and Communications consultancies in the UK, with clients such as Telewest, UML, Swallow Hotels and The Office of the Taoiseach in Dublin, as well as many public agencies.  

When the business was sold in 1997, Jack became managing director of the Cumbria Inward Investment Agency with a brief to secure inward investment to the County as a counterweight to job losses in traditional sectors. Under his leadership, new jobs were attracted to the area and unemployment lowered.  

Jack and his wife Carolyn still maintain a home in the Lake District, but in 2005 Jack returned to Liverpool, becoming the Chief Executive of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, key activities of which include International Trade, and Training and Business Policy Work for around 1400 member businesses, employing more than 200,000 local people. He strongly believes that the Chamber should not just represent business but, where possible, set the policy agenda in discussion with employers, key public agencies and government.   

Throughout his career, Jack Stopforth's qualities as a business leader have been widely recognised and his services frequently sought. 

Roles additional to his main employment have included: Deputy Chairman, then Chairman, of Cumbria Learning and Skills Council Former Governor and now Ambassador of UCLAN. For the past three years, he has been a director of the Merseyside Special Investment Fund, which is a local source of venture and development capital for businesses in the Liverpool city-region. 

Since its inception, Jack has been involved with The Mersey Partnership, the inward investment and tourism board for Merseyside, originally representing SMEs and Chambers on the main board, and now serving as a member of the Economy Board. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Liverpool Management School and he has recently taken on the role of a non-executive director with Liverpool Community Health Trust. 

Jack is a passionate believer in the importance of training, life-long learning and skills development, especially for younger people, and takes particular pleasure in being a "National Apprenticeship Ambassador". The Chamber is in fact one of the biggest providers in the city-region of work-based training, including apprenticeships. And the Chamber facilitates the work of our University in a range of areas, including skills development in SMEs, graduate enterprise and business networking.   

Despite his busy and successful career, Jack has found time for life away from the cut and thrust of the business world. He has retained a life-long interest in football and remains a dedicated fan of Liverpool FC. 

In his early twenties, he played semi-pro football for Canterbury City. And for 30 years until 2008, he played regular football with Convocation FC. He also gained notoriety as the club Karaoke King.  

It may well be that his prowess at football and karaoke are deserving of honours, but today we are here to acknowledge him for his outstanding and sustained contribution to business and the economy of Liverpool city-region.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Jack Stopforth, this most distinguished son of our city, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.