A Better Place to Invest
We are now less than 90 days from welcoming the world to Leeds and Yorkshire for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, and excitement is mounting about the big day. Our cultural festival is in full swing, and there are still opportunities for businesses to get involved in sponsorship and hospitality packages through Welcome to Yorkshire, and our International Festival of Business. This all offers a great opportunity to host potential and existing customers in what will be an incredible atmosphere, and will I’m sure generate lots of business opportunities and see some deals being done.
It’s important to say that, although July 5th is going to be a hugely exciting day, it will also be a major exercise in managing huge numbers of people and with three billion people watching we need to get it right! The Council has been working with key partners to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible, and I’m sure the business community will play its part in keeping the city safe and running smoothly.
Important though the Tour is, there are a lot of other things going on in the city. Let me give you a quick flavour.
The amazing success of Trinity Leeds continues, with over 22 million visitors having passed through the doors since opening last year. The First Direct Arena is attracting the best acts in the world and changing the buzz and atmosphere in the city centre. Both were the largest developments of their kind in Europe in 2013 and they have attracted two million more people to Leeds city centre.
Planning for the South Bank of the city, focused around the new High Speed 2 station is well underway, and we have been lobbying Government hard for accelerating the pace of the HS2 construction programme – including taking the campaign to Whitehall itself with a very well received Parliamentary reception. Let me know if you would want to be a business ambassador to promote HS2.
As well as retail and entertainment, the demand for premium office space is also accelerating, fuelled by a business community growing in confidence and looking to invest. High quality developments are emerging around Wellington Place and planning has been approved for a further development between Wellington Street and Whitehall Road which will provide over 22,500 sqm of office floor space, as well as a health/wellness centre, retail units, and the creation of a ‘winter garden’. The plans complement and consolidate the city centre’s western expansion.
Outside the city centre core, the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone continues to gather pace. The Council and the development teams marketing the site are in conversations with a number of potential investors, and we were pleased to recently be awarded a grant of over £8m for remediation and infrastructure work, as well as the news in the Budget that extended business rates incentives for a further three years. Together with the White Rose, Thorpe Park and Kirkstall Forge developments, this will create thousands of jobs in the city over the next decade.
I was part of the Leeds City Region team that attended the recent MIPIM investment event, and there was a noticeable difference in the scale of interest in our offer from investors right across the world, in no small part thanks to the efforts of Lurene Joseph and the team at Leeds and Partners. Trip Advisor has named Leeds as a top 10 destination in the United Kingdom for 2014.
Speaking of working as a team, the Council’s Executive Board recently approved the principle of a City Centre Business Improvement District, and committed £150,000 of funding to work together with the private sector to develop a proposed BID business plan and run a campaign to encourage occupiers to vote for a BID at a ballot in November 2014. I’d like to thank all the private sector representatives who have been working alongside Council officers and members to bring the BID proposal forward, and I look forward to seeing the business plan developed over the summer.
We want our best businesses to be involved in helping us make Leeds the best city in the country, not just succeeding economically but making sure all our citizens have the chance to achieve their potential. We have an excellent new Apprenticeship initiative in which we are keen to involve as many businesses as possible, and there are many other ways you and your staff can contribute to the city, such as supporting our child friendly city ambition, our call for more foster carers, getting involved in our Citizens Panel and more. As always, I’m happy to hear from any businesses who would like to know more about getting involved.
The Council is making Leeds a better place to invest, and to do business. I hope Downtown members are seeing that happen, and as always, I’m happy to hear any feedback you have on how we can do even better.