The Story of David Bellis MBE. Part 6. There’s a lot more to David than business success!
To coincide with David’s 80th birthday we are happy to bring you part 6 in the story of David Bellis MBE.
Founding two of Oldham’s most successful businesses of the last 50 years, and winning a cabinet load of business awards is an overwhelming lifetime achievement – but David has done way beyond that! He is also a talented amateur artist and collector; sportsman, vehicle enthusiast; family man and self builder; business angel and mentor; supporter of local good causes, and a passionate advocate for local heritage protection.
As Oldham born, Oldham educated and always resident within the Borough, David has ‘carried the flag for Oldham’ in all of his activities – never more so than his contribution and involvement in Oldham’s wider business community. For more than 100 years the Oldham Chamber of Commerce was the most significant commercial organisation in the town, with leading business people elected to the Chamber Council by their peers. David was first elected in 1974, when the relatively new Coin Controls was described as an ‘engineering’ company! He remained an elected member until the merger of the Chamber into Oldham Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise (OCCTE) in 1995. For the centenary of Oldham Chamber in 1982, the Chamber Council elected David as President – a very special honour – and he served a further Presidential term in 1983 as well.
David has always encouraged the set up and growth of businesses, and it was no surprise that he was the obvious choice to be the first Chairman of Oldham Enterprise Ltd. This was 1985 – the era of the £40 a week enterprise allowance, and the time of a seismic shift in the local economy from a small number of large employers in traditional manufacturing to a huge number of small businesses across many sectors. This led to a remarkable decade; from a small scale volunteer based advice agency which was transformed with professional advisers; business training courses; the introduction of computer software programmes; export missions and business club networking – then a new concept! At the height of activity more than 400 businesses a year were being set up, and Oldham’s business population went from less than 2000 to nearly 5000 in ten years. David played a full part in encouraging new businesses; dedicating huge amounts of time to encourage people with embryonic business ideas from window cleaning to electronics manufacturing. He pioneered ‘open for advice’ sessions held in evenings – often in pubs – for people to come along without appointments or obligation that predated the business idea generation ‘BIG’ seminars that were not in vogue until 20 years later.
Another initiative many years ahead of the curve was the ‘Busy Bee’ company in Springhead. When Coin Controls needed a specific microswitch of a type not available, David designed it, and got wife Brenda to establish and manage the business. With an all female workforce, and employment hours structured around individual… …needs and availability; ‘Busy Bee’ anticipated the flexible working businesses of today by a good 30 years. This was just one of a number of independent businesses set up to be part of a down stream supply chain to David’s central businesses.
David was also a ‘Business Angel’ in sectors not associated with his speciality of payment systems. One example is Environics Ltd; they developed a digital pollution monitoring system for smoke stacks that was a radical replacement for the crude filter pad systems on the top of chimneys system then in use. David mentored the business, served as a director and helped engineer some of the fittings.
When in 1995 Oldham’s various business organisations merged into one – the Oldham Chamber of Commerce Training and Enterprise (OCCTE), David served as a director during a time that most people would say was the most successful and prosperous for businesses in the last 50 years. David was the keynote speaker at the 150th Borough Anniversary event in 1999 for business enterprise in Oldham. In 2009 David was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious Oldham Business Awards.
David’s flair extended to cars – his renovation of a 1920s Rolls Royce and a 1938 Bugatti achieved Concours d’Elegance standards. His homes in Spain and in Saddleworth were built from his original designs – and as you would expect – pushed the boundaries with technical innovations such as air source heat pumps.
The renovation of a former cotton mill – Delta Mill in Royton – as the home of Coin Controls (now Money Controls) won planning awards. David put his individual stamp on the transformed building with a 14 foot high revolving micrometer on the roof top as a brand symbol that attracted planning objections on the grounds of distraction to motorists on nearby Broadway, but is now a much loved local landmark.
A keen golfer, he is an active member of two local golf clubs, and supports many local ‘good causes’ – in particular training, education and Oldham College.
It is less well known that he is a talented fine artist, and has a notable collection of works by local artists, including Helen Bradley of Lees; the ‘Lowry’ of Oldham. David is also passionate about documenting Oldham’s immense contribution to economic and industrial
history, and has been responsible for a number of Blue Plaques recording notable sites in Oldham, and in saving and preserving heritage items and buildings. With the opening of Oldham’s Heritage Centre due in 2020, many of his projects and initiatives will at last come to fruition.
Tributes to David, and biographies of his career have been complied in the past on previous notable occasions of awards or significant dates. They have always summarised what he has achieved as an end statement – but not this time! What will happen next? Where will David’s curiosity and original thinking take him and his businesses in the future? There are more ideas and new developments being incubated at Innovative Technology at the present time than ever before. So this is the conclusion of Chapter 6 of the David Bellis MBE Story as at 2018 – but what will be in Chapter 7?