Colchester businesses have thrown their weight behind firstsite – the town’s stunning new conference and arts venue – as “a world-class investment which will give Colchester a competitive edge.”

Almost 100 business leaders got their first glimpse inside firstsite’s new landmark building – which opens to the public in September 2011 – at a business breakfast held in the giant foyer (TUES 22 SEPT) to launch the venue’s business booking offer for conferences, events, product promotions, and other commercial events.

“firstsite is central to Colchester’s economic growth – it’s our world-class investment in the commercial future of Colchester and the region” said Ewan Dodds, Managing Director, Whybrow Chartered Surveyors, lead partner for Business on Colchester 2020, the town’s Local Strategic Partnership, and Chair of the Colchester Business Group.

“The launch of this iconic building, especially in such a difficult economic climate, represents a huge investment in the future of the community and the region. We take great pride in it.

“firstsite puts Colchester and Essex firmly on the business tourism map, not only regionally but throughout the world. It raises our town’s profile, attracts visitors, brings in commercial and business tourists and will give a huge boost to our local economy.”

Peter Powell, Senior Partner at leading law firm Ellisons, who sponsored the breakfast, said: “We have been alongside firstsite right from the beginning and it felt very positive to finally walk through its doors this morning and celebrate this important milestone. Ellisons, as a firm, has influenced the business and cultural development of Colchester for nearly 250 years; with ground-breaking projects such as firstsite, we also know that we are playing a role in our town’s future.”

Robert Leng, President of Essex Chamber of Commerce, welcomed firstsite as the anchor development in the town’s cultural quarter in the same way as successful shopping malls invest in an innovative anchor store in order to flourish: “We are really proud of this inspiring building which we know is set to give a major impetus to other developers to invest in our lovely town,” he added.

Cllr Paul Smith, Colchester Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Resources and Diversity, praised the transformation that is taking place as firstsite moves nearer to completion: “As the building is transformed, we’ll see perceptions being transformed,” he said.

“It’s not just buildings which can change,” he said, “Colchester is now the fastest growing town in the country. firstsite is key to our town’s regeneration and we are proud to have this wonderful venue at its heart. It will support our growing town’s need for jobs, skills, investment, learning and commercial success.”

Essex County Cllr Jeremy Lucas, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, urged the business community to, “Come to Colchester – bring your businesses, family and friends.

“Where else could you have a conference in such a distinctive and spectacular building set in an historic part of the town? There is nowhere better in the region or the country.”

Cllr Lucas stressed the economic benefits of tourism to Essex, now worth 7m-a-day, and employing more than 50,000 in the county: “Business tourism is a huge contributor to the county and has increased by 50 per cent over the past ten years,” he said.

Wayne Warner, firstsite’s Commercial Director, said: “We are very much open for business bookings.

“This morning’s event was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the many commercial benefits – and sheer scale – of our spectacular new building. Feedback from delegates confirmed that there’s an overwhelming need for a town-centre venue of this size, and we’re delighted that bookings are already coming in.”