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Oldham hero Frank Rothwell named new ambassador for business

Frank Rothwell and Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah.

Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah has named businessman and fundraiser Frank Rothwell her first Ambassador for Business.

Frank, owner and founder of Manchester Cabins, became the oldest man to row unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean last year, raising over £1 million for Alzheimer's Research UK in the process.  

Over the years, Frank has supported many local organisations and, last year, donated £30,000 to Action Together to help the charity continue its vital work supporting the Oldham community throughout the pandemic. 

He will now assist Cllr Shah in engaging with businesses across the borough, providing an expert voice and helping steer the council's approach to supporting and growing local businesses.

Cllr Shah said: "I'm delighted that Frank has agreed to become business ambassador for Oldham Council. His business expertise, knowledge of the borough, and deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face will be invaluable as we aim to enable businesses here to start up, grow, and thrive.

"I spoke at length with Frank at our recent business breakfast, held at Madhlo, and was impressed by his energy and commitment to the borough, as well as his enthusiasm for helping to drive forward our plans for regeneration and growth.

"I look forward to having him on board and know he will be a huge asset for the council  - just as he is a huge asset to all of us here in Oldham already."

Frank said he was "truly honoured" to be offered the position. 

He went on: "I know from experience that when local businesses are successful there is a natural positive effect which benefits the wider community and promotes a better life for all residents. This in turn brings in new business, and exciting opportunities perpetuate the continued improvement for all of Oldham.

"My first action as Oldham’s Business Ambassador is to encourage Oldham’s businesses to attend the next breakfast meeting with Cllr Shah, and Harry Catherall, the Chief Executive, at Mahdlo - thus ensuring we are galvanised, strive to improve what we have now, and attract new businesses to Oldham too. 

"At the meeting, Arooj and Harry will explain the vision and direction of the Council, which will be followed by a question and answer session open to all businesses.

"I look forward to proactively supporting the link between the Council and Oldham’s fantastic businesses, while promoting Oldham as ‘the place’ to do business."

The eldest of five children, Frank left school at the age of 14, with his only qualification being "a 25 yards swimming certificate."

His first job was as an apprentice farm tractor mechanic but, at 19, after achieving a City and Guilds in Mechanical Engineering, he became a bulldozer mechanic on the M62 construction project.       

From there, he moved on to working as a mechanic in the copper mines in Zambia and also as a foreman on the Dubai Dry Dock project.                                                                                                                 

Frank set up his Manchester Cabins business in 1979, aged 28, from his home in Royton.

He said: "My business originally manufactured affordable and cheerful portable construction site cabins but, in the last 20 years, we changed the direction of our business to a hire company which manufactures its own cabins.

"We are also manufacturer and hirer of the National market leading Bunkabin units. These are portable sleeping accommodation units that have a bed, a shower, toilet, wash hand basin, microwave and fridges and are designed to allow you to stay and sleep where ever you need to. 

"I retired last year and our family business is now being successfully managed by my son Luke and daughter Su. Manchester Cabins employs over 50 people in our Oldham factory and depot and turns over nearly £20m a year. 

"For fun, among other things, I made the first Land Rover to be powered by steam and coal in my garage, and this year at 70, I became the oldest person to row a boat solo across the Atlantic Ocean - raising £1.1m for Alzheimer’s Research UK, with great support from our beautiful town of Oldham."

Since becoming leader, Cllr Shah has launched a new programme of business engagement events, with the aim of listening to local leaders and ensuring the authority is best placed to assist them by understanding the challenges and issues they face.

To sign up for Oldham Council's regular business newsletter, which includes update on business support as well as key developments across the borough, fill in the online form here.

The next Business Breakfast will be held at 8am on Thursday 3 March at Madhlo in Egerton Street. Registration details will follow in the New Year.

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