It began with a few Dutch weavers traveling to Manchester, England in the 15th century. They were drawn to the area for northern Britain’s microclimate, which is perfect for converting rough cotton into cloth string. To make a really long story short, the area grew into Europe’s largest clothing manufacturing and distribution center with the birth of the cotton loom in the 1800s. That was the spark that gave rise to the Industrial Revolution and factory production. In the late 19th century, 16,000 men spent eight years digging a canal system 35 miles from Manchester to open sea to welcome ships bringing raw cotton from the American South. By the 1970s, the entire port fell into disrepair due to the advent of container shipping and worldwide cotton production. In one of the greatest land reclamation projects in modern history, the canals were cleaned to Blue Wave status. People swim, kayak and windsurf in them now. The Lowry performing arts center opened in 2000. The Imperial War Museum North opened in 2002. And the spectacular MediaCityUK opened in 2010 as a state-of-the-art high tech facility anchored by BBC Sports. We showed up last week to scope out the wide variety of group venues, collaborative business and educational opportunities, and varied tours available for group bookings. Stay tuned for an upcoming On Location story.