PwC’s investment in Bradford as symbolic as Channel 4 is for Leeds

Like the majority of successful people, Will Richardson never questioned the idea when growing up that one day he would find a job and go out to work, just like his parents did. The son of a newsagent and school teacher from North Yorkshire left school at 16 with reasonable O-level qualifications. After a false start at a supermarket management training scheme, Will returned to education, graduated from polytechnic and by chance came across PwC at a careers fair.

Today, he is senior partner at PwC in Leeds and a board member at Bradford Opportunity Area, a Government-backed initiative to improve opportunities for young people through education. When he was starting out, the expectation that he would get a job was always a given. For many young people in Bradford, and indeed many towns and cities across the UK, this expectation, never mind this aspiration, does not exist.

The Opportunity Area programme is designed to unlock the potential of our district’s young people through strong partnership work between local government, employers, the voluntary sector, academic researchers, nurseries, schools and colleges. Launched in 2017, the programme aims to strengthen school leadership and the quality of teaching, improve literacy in primary schools, particularly among disadvantaged pupils, improve access to rewarding careers and use evidence and research to remove barriers to learning, such as health issues. It recognises that while Bradford has much to offer its children and young people, the district ranks less well on social mobility and educational attainment levels.

We all welcome the perspective that an outsider brings to a business situation and in this case, Will’s experience of Bradford through the Opportunity Area programme opened his eyes to the potential that exists in our district. At the same time, PwC was looking at its operating model as a professional services group. One of the partners was leading the transformation of the assurance business. She was considering the possibility of a national assurance centre, which could be located in the UK. Will met the partner over coffee and made the case for Bradford as the perfect location. She agreed and together they successfully pitched the idea to PwC’s UK board and chairman, Kevin Ellis.

That was a year ago. In the meantime, the firm found a site, 5 Godwin Street, and agreed a deal for more than 9,000 sq ft of office space. The centre formally opens next month (April). PwC has recruited 60 Bradfordians to date and plans to take headcount to 225 and possibly more. It is providing full training and is taking an open-minded approach to recruitment including school leavers, young people leaving college and university and those in later life looking for a change in career.

Will has said the new assurance centre is one of PwC’s key priorities in delivering a best-in-class proposition as one of the world’s leading professional services firms. Recruits will gain great experience working with a wide range of national clients from innovative SMEs to large corporations. I believe this can provide a life-changing experience for many of the new employees and their families. They will be able to taste success and unleash their ambition.

As well as the prime career opportunities promised by the new office, let’s not underestimate the PR benefits of a global firm like PwC choosing Bradford for its new assurance centre. This sends out a strong message to other national and international decision makers that this is a district with a positive, exciting and successful future. Human nature dictates they will want a part of that as well.

In its own way, this is just as important as Channel 4’s decision to choose Leeds for its new national headquarters. It is symbolic. It says to young people in the district and wider city region that there are opportunities for the taking. More investors will follow, attracted by our young and enterprising population, growth potential, globally connected district and distinctive offer. One day, every child growing up in our district can expect to achieve great things, whatever their background. For me, that’s what it’s all about.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Take-off for global aerospace industry is good news for Bradford

With annual revenues upwards of $729bn, the global aerospace industry is one of the world’s most valuable sectors. It is also one of the most intensive investors in research and development. That investment is not likely to slow down any time soon.

According to Deloitte, the industry’s strong growth trajectory is estimated to continue in 2019, led by increases in commercial aircraft production and defence spending. In the commercial sector, the backlog for aircraft orders is at a record high. Experts predict that 38,000 aircraft will be produced over the next two decades. In defence, rising geopolitical tensions are driving growth in government spending across the world, from the US to China. Turbulence caused by tragic crashes or Brexit uncertainty won’t shift these fundamentals.

This buoyancy is brilliant news for Bradford company Produmax, the Baildon-based manufacturing company with an expertise in high-precision engineering. The business is a global expert in flight control components and a supplier to world-leading aerospace companies such as Boeing, Bombardier, Moog and Meggitt. Produmax is on a strong growth trajectory of its own: turnover has increased from £4.2m in 2014 to £8.9m in 2018 and is on course for £10m by 2020. Exports make up 70 per cent of sales, with customers in the USA, Canada, Japan, Philippines and Morocco.

Produmax is plotting its path for future growth. The company invested £4.5m in its high-tech facility at Baildon. This opened in 2016. Later this spring, Produmax will expand into a new unit with the latest machining technology, representing a further investment of £2.3m. This facility will serve a major aerospace prime manufacturer. “We see the aerospace market as very buoyant,” said managing director Jeremy Ridyard, who praised the “proactive, business-focused” Bradford Council for supporting the company’s move.

As well as spending on plant and machinery, Produmax is investing in its people and is proud of its one-team philosophy, which aims to empower its 76 staff and recognise that each individual is an important part of the overall success of the business. Looking after your staff makes good business sense. The company achieved a massive increase in productivity after adopting an innovation identified by one of its 20 young apprentices. This reduced a lead time from 32 days to 27 hours. That shows the value of listening to your people.

“We have always believed that to stay ahead of the competition we need to invest, not only in the latest technology but in our approach to business and the development of our people and culture,” said Mr Ridyard. “It’s essential if you are going to compete in a global market place that you can improve your efficiencies year on year.”

Produmax is taking part in the Sharing in Growth scheme, a £250m government-backed initiative to improve the global competitiveness of the UK aerospace supply chain. Last September, it won a national award recognising its progress since joining the scheme in 2014.

The UK is a world leader in the aerospace industry. The sector has recorded productivity growth of 65 per cent since 2010 – the reward for investment in research and development – and employs 92 per cent of its workers outside London and the South East. Workers are typically well-paid as well, earning nearly £41,000 a year, which is 43 per cent more than the national average. Overall, the UK generated nearly $49bn of revenue in 2017, a fair share of the global $729bn.

Of course, the UK can earn more and it’s inspiring to see companies like Produmax setting ambitious targets, investing in high-tech manufacturing facilities, improving productivity and taking on apprentices and developing them through meaningful training schemes.

At the Bradford Economic Partnership, we are determined to ensure that our young and enterprising people are equipped with the skills and confidence to succeed. We are also determined to build on our business and sector strengths to drive innovation, increase productivity and create wealth. In both these respects, Produmax is a perfect case study.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Bradford’s putting Yorkshire on the map

Put your hands up if you’re not from Bradford. Two thirds of the audience raised their hands. Put your hands up if you’re leaving with a positive impression of the district. Almost everyone did. The 350-strong crowd at TEDxBradford was as diverse as they come: aged 14 to 76, male, female, Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Sikh, local authority, faith sector, arts, culture and business. All present, correct and trending on Twitter that January day.

This story, as told by organiser Kamran Rashid, shows how Bradford is creating places for people to come together and work together. This inspiring tale was one of many success stories shared at +365, the first annual review of the Bradford Economic Partnership’s growth strategy, held at Keighley College’s magnificent atrium last week.

Mr Rashid revealed how global brands with young audiences are starting to take notice of Bradford, a district where 30 per cent of the population is aged under 20. Red Bull, the multi-billion dollar energy drink group, invests significant amounts in global marketing to target very specific audiences. It chose Bradford for its programme to champion social entrepreneurs driving positive change in their corner of the world. Generation Z, the people born from the mid 90s to early 00s, is putting our district on the map.

“Bradford’s putting Yorkshire on the map,” added Phil Forster, aviation development and corporate affairs manager at Leeds Bradford Airport. Speaking at +365, he said: “When we talk to airlines, they are aware of what’s going on in this district. Bradford was one of the key reasons AMP Capital wanted to come to this region.” AMP Capital is the $150bn global investment manager and owner of Leeds Bradford Airport since 2017.

We also heard from PwC, the professional services giant, which is opening a new assurance office in Bradford. The Big Four firm was looking for a location for the national centre. Will Richardson, the Leeds office senior partner, pitched Bradford to PwC’s UK chairman and convinced him of the potential and talent in the district. PwC is recruiting school leavers, graduates and people in later life looking for a change of career. The investment will create 225 new jobs. It’s hard to underestimate the value of a blue chip business like PwC choosing your district above others.

Founder Syima Aslam told us how her Bradford Literature Festival had challenged the conventions of what a literature festival should be and who it should be for. She curated a programme that talked to people of Bradford and went on to win national and international attention. Ms Aslam said: “It’s made others in the literature sector take notice and ask what we’re doing. We’re attracting audiences that no-one else has.” Literature festivals typically attract a very certain demographic. Bradford’s is different and appeals to all, especially the young.

Nick Garthwaite, President of Bradford Chamber and managing director of chemicals manufacturer Christeyns UK, reminded us of the great success of the inaugural Bradford Manufacturing Week, which engaged 2,600 students, 22 secondary schools and 40 manufacturers. “For some young people, it was life changing,” said Mr Garthwaite. “For businesses, it is incredibly motivating.”

Ian Ward, chairman of Bradford Business Improvement District and general manager of the Broadway Shopping Centre, echoed the importance of collaboration in initiatives like Sparkling Bradford, the festive campaign which succeeded in driving up footfall across the district. His Keighley counterpart Steve Seymour told us about the thriving independent retail scene in Cavendish Street and how the Keighley BID is helping to promote businesses in the town centre.

Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said her highlights of the year have been new partnerships between different organisations, wage growth, a substantial increase in BME female employment and a significant rise in manufacturing apprenticeships. “The district is getting its mojo back,” she added. “We’re building confidence among investors, brands and government.” Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, reminded us who we are doing this for: the 140,000 children in our district. “They deserve the best place we can deliver for them,” she said.

For me, success is a journey, not a destination. Our economic growth strategy is designed to take us from 2018 to 2030. We need to recognise our successes as the years unfold and also our challenges where we fall short. We must never lose sight of the big vision, which is for a pioneering, confident and connected district. Sometimes you’re ahead of the curve, sometimes you’re behind it. But with everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction, we’ll make sure we stay on it.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.

Minimum requirement, maximum effort: partnership’s mantra yielding results

Minimum requirement, maximum effort. That’s the approach I said we would be taking at the launch of Bradford’s economic growth strategy in March 2018. I said we wanted to create a movement in Bradford and make sure everyone is pointing in the same direction because getting this right means we can add £4bn to the district economy, create 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 residents by 2030.

Exactly one year after launch, the Bradford Economic Partnership will be sharing with invited guests the strong progress our district has made in attracting new investors, starting up and scaling up businesses, building new partnerships and bringing more people into the workforce.

Twelve months on, we want to celebrate our achievements to date, including the birth of 4,127 businesses in 2018, or 15 new start-ups every working day, and the identification of 48 high growth scale-ups in Bradford; a jobs boom of 6,500 new roles (based on latest available figures), all created by our enterprising private sector, representing a rise of nearly 5 per cent; breaking the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, almost double the amount since 2010; and an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings to £488 in 2018.

Beyond these eye-catching headlines, we have staged inspirational events such as Bradford Manufacturing Week and Bradford Literature Festival, welcomed new names to the district and wider city region such as a professional services giant and the national broadcaster Channel 4, and convened local businesses for the truly inspirational Bradford Business Improvement District.

In a challenging year for the wider UK economy, our strategy is taking us in the right direction and that is testament to the strong partnerships we are building across the public and private sector. Hats off to Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe and CEO Kersten England and their team at Bradford Council, colleagues at the Bradford Economic Partnership, the Bradford Chamber of Commerce and business community, our educational institutions, our charities and our arts organisations.

Mike Cartwright, policy and representation executive at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Many businesses in Bradford were involved in the preparatory work ahead of the launch of the economic strategy, and so they will be interested in hearing about the changes since then. It’s been a difficult 12 months for many firms, and that uncertainty and trepidation that has grown in recent months may well continue for some time. 

“All the more reason to give businesses and other communities the best assurances we can and support them in the best possible way. And that’s what the strategy does. It helps set out a framework for the district to realise its potential and seize its opportunities. It was created as a joint effort, and the objectives will be achieved jointly too.

“Whether that’s highlighting the opportunities in manufacturing for young people, lobbying for better transport connectivity across the North, or simply helping to sustain an environment in which business can thrive, the Chamber is happy to be a part of Bradford’s Economic Partnership.”

Mr Cartwright added: “Despite the ongoing uncertainty and the repeated challenges facing businesses today, it’s pleasing to note the great strides made by the district over the last 12 months. An exceptional increase in start-ups, job growth happening at an excellent rate and weekly earnings increasing at far above the inflation rate are just some of the outstanding markers that next month’s celebratory event will herald – and rightly so, too.  We have lots of good news to shout about.”

Bradford Economic Strategy +365 Days takes place on March 6 in Keighley and guests will be hearing from Cllr Hinchcliffe and myself about how our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer, growth potential and global connections are helping to make meaningful progress against our ambitious growth targets. They’ll also be hearing me repeat my mantra of minimum requirement, maximum effort. I suspect it’s going to be another challenging 12 months but with everyone pointing in the same direction, you’ll be surprised what we can achieve by working together.

You can read the full Bradford Economic Partnership annual report HERE

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Good national press shows progress we’re making with economic strategy

“Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo, when you’ve got Bradford?” That was an attention-grabbing headline in The Times at the weekend. Okay, it was only a Giles Coren restaurant review but we’ll take the glowing national coverage as an example of the positive momentum we’re gaining as a district.

By the time you read this, Bradford Economic Partnership will have hosted its +365 event to review the progress of our economic growth strategy. All being well, I will give readers a full report on proceedings in +7, but in the meantime we would like to share some highlights of our first annual review, which went to the printers just after I wrote this column.

Entitled Pioneering, Confident and Connected, the document provides a snapshot of the year to March 6 2019 and updates on our efforts to attract new investors, start up and scale up businesses, build new partnerships and bring more people into the workforce. We are working hard to deliver on these aims by focusing on four key strengths: our young and enterprising population, our distinctive offer, our growth potential and our globally connected district.

Take our young and enterprising population. Our strategy aims to ensure that all people are equipped with the skills and confidence to succeed. The district saw 4,870 apprenticeship starts last year. Each one of those represents the important first step for many young people’s working lives, providing them with the chance to successfully establish themselves, start earning some money and grow in confidence. We are also trying to make a difference earlier on. The district won £5.5m in funding to increase participation in extra-curricular activities, with every school and college receiving a grant to provide programmes that help children to develop resilience, team working, communication and other essential life skills.

Take our distinctive offer. We aim to use our unique assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. Our offer has developed through a number of initiatives, notably through the successful vote for a Business Improvement District in Bradford city centre which follows on from the creation of the Keighley BID in 2016. The Keighley BID is doing some great work developing Cavendish Street as a hub for specialist independent businesses, helped by the refurbishment of the famous Victorian canopy. More widely, Bradford was named Europe’s emerging destination of the year by the Luxury Travel Guide, whose editors were impressed by our modern cosmopolitan city.

Take our growth potential. We aim to build on our business and sector strengths to drive innovation, increase productivity and create wealth. This potential was highlighted most effectively by the inaugural Bradford Manufacturing Week last autumn which saw students from more than half the district’s secondary schools take part in more than 3,000 first-hand manufacturing experiences. The accompanying media campaign reached an incredible 22 million people and helped attract the attention of Prime Minister Theresa May who applauded the district’s inspirational efforts to promote this important wealth-creating sector.

Take our globally connected district. We aim to improve our transport infrastructure and digital infrastructure and digital connectivity to strength trading links. Our vision won support from businesses from across the North who are backing our ambitions to better connect Bradford city centre through Northern Powerhouse Rail. Independent research has shown that securing a city centre station on the pan-northern network would more than double the size of the district’s economy over the coming decades. We are delighted to see Transport for the North include the station in its £70bn strategic plan.

Performance-wise, the headline numbers are impressive. These include 4,127 new Companies House registrations, the ninth highest of any city in the UK, a jobs increase of 6,500 new roles, all created by our enterprising private sector, representing an increase of almost five per cent, breaking the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, and an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings to £488.

These are all important milestones and suggest why we are getting more good write-ups, such as Mr Coren’s. In his review of the Waterside Inn at Shipley, the columnist noted the chef’s culinary credentials at The Criterion in London, Le Jules Verne in Paris and Le Louis XV in Monaco and concluded “this place has not just charm but a real touch of class”. That equally applies to Bradford as a whole.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club