Fun and Elegance the Key to Resort's Prosperity; Tony McDonough Meets KEN DEARY, One of Southport's Best-Known Entrepreneurs

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Byline: KEN DEARY

KEN DEARY is a born-and-bred Scouser but it's clear his heart now lies just up the coast in Southport. The 46-year-old businessman, who lives in the town with his wife and two children, has made his fortune selling Big Macs from the four franchised McDonald's restaurants he now operates in Merseyside.

Last month, Deary's status as one of Southport's best-known entrepreneurs was rubber stamped when he was named chairman elect of Southport Business Village (SBV), the town's main regeneration driver, which provides a bridge between the public and private sectors.

He takes the helm at a time of great change in the town which, up until just a few years ago, had ``stumbled along'' in a general decline that had afflicted many of the UK's coastal resorts.

Then along came Objective 1 during the 1990s which helped kick-start regeneration across Merseyside.

Southport initially benefited to the tune of pounds 8. 7m. The knock-on effect of that, according to Deary, has been a further pounds 50m of investment into the area.

He said: ``Up until about five years ago, business people were very concerned about the direction the town was heading in. It was at that time that local government became more entrepreneurial and, since then, things have started to move and we have seen a number of great projects including Ocean Plaza, the refurbished pier, the eco centre and of course Pleasureland which is still very important to the town. ''

For generations of youngsters, Southport has been the fun capital of Merseyside and its elegant shopping streets have also proved a major draw.

It is these two historical elements of the resort that Deary sees as the key to its future prosperity and he is also keen to see the organisation he now heads drop the word Village from its name and become Southport Business Partnership.

``We want to get away from the idea that Southport is a village, it isn't, it is one of the major towns in the North West.

``What we are trying to create here is what we would call a classic resort -- somewhere that is seen as high quality and stylish, similar to somewhere like Brighton.

``We want people to come here and find quality shopping with top names and the kind of top-quality hotel accommodation we haven't had in the past.

``We want fantastic restaurants in the town and for people to get the message that this is a vibrant and sophisticated place. ''

Deary, 46, was born in Croxteth, Liverpool, and was one of five children. The family, raised alone by their mother, later moved to Melling and then to Southport.

After attending schools in Maghull and Southport, Deary went to the University of Leeds to study economics but, after graduating, was quickly catapulted into the world of work to help support the family.

``I came from a relatively poor family and my mother had brought five of us up on her own, so I had to go out and get a job. ''

He joined Royal Insurance in Liverpool and qualified as an accountant but the idea of being stuck behind a desk as an employee for the rest of his career didn't really fit in with Deary's ambitions. …