Preston has a population of around 135, 000 people and is expanding both physically and in terms of its economic development. The government's strategy is to become the third city in the Northwest, after Liverpool and Manchester and with its strategic location in the heart of Lancashire, Preston benefits from a strong business and retail base, along with an solid reputation as an attractive place to work, live and invest.
Preston is an ancient market town and received its first Royal Charter in 1179. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a great deal of slum clearance in Preston. The Preston by-pass was built in 1958 and the St Georges Shopping Centre in 1964. In 2002 Preston was given official city status, making it England's newest city. Major expansion in recent years is set to continue further with the progression of major projects such as the Tithebarn scheme, which will regenerate the city centre.
The economy in Preston is largely based on long standing manufacturing industries such as engineering and textiles. Major employers in the city include Alstom (train manufactures) and BAe Systems (military/commercial aircraft manufacturing). The city has also experienced a growth in its service industry and IT sector and many businesses now use professional recruitment agencies such as Daniel Adams to advertise their administrative, secretarial and finance vacancies. The city is also an important university town, home to the University of Central Lancashire, with a student population of more than 32,000.
Preston has developed into a culturally diverse city, and its community includes residents from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Beyond the bustling city centre, the city also offers a relaxed lifestyle with seven major parks, a waterfront development at Riversway Docklands and leafy suburbs that extend out to rural villages in the surrounding countryside.
Ongoing regeneration and development projects are transforming Preston into a regional hub. In 2009, work began on the city's Business Improvement District which is redefining the Preston City centre through a partnership between businesses, local authorities, and other organisations, all of them working together to improve the trading environment.
The city was also named European City of Sport 2012, which will mean around 100 sporting events will be held during that year, including the UK corporate games which are expected to draw over 5000 delegates to compete in 22 sports over 3 days.