By Dave Baldwin
Bradford is one of the best places in Britain to run a business, according to new research into the key factors for economic success. The district makes fourth place in a national ranking, behind only London, Kirklees and Leeds, based on evidence from a variety of metrics linked to setting up and running businesses.
These “magic ingredients” include commercial property rental values, parking spaces, government finance and support schemes, broadband speed, 4G coverage, unemployment rates, quality of life, population aged between 18-34, annual gross pay, number of arts, entertainment and recreation services and professional, scientific and technical businesses per 1,000 18-34 year-olds. Bradford fares strongly on all fronts.
The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which carried out the research, singled out the low price of rent (£15 per sq ft) and parking for businesses (£3.34 per day) in Bradford, providing significant cost advantages for businesses. The study also highlighted the number of government funding schemes available for businesses. Bradford has six.
Notably, the district ranked highly for quality of life, based on official statistics for areas such as health, relationships, education and skills, what we do, where we live, our finances and the environment. Bradford was fourth in the table in the ONS measure of wellbeing.
Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP, said: “This research confirms what we always knew to be true, Bradford is a great place to run a business. There is a lot of bespoke support and funding available through the LEP for Bradford businesses owners, and I encourage them to get in touch.”
The LEP research adds to Bradford’s growing reputation as a city bouncing back after some difficult years. Last month, Bradford was named Britain’s most improved city in a nationwide study by think tank Demos and accountancy giant PwC. The Good Growth for Cities index measured the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.
The Demos-PwC report singled out Bradford for the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015.
Both studies carry echoes of the Barclays report from late 2017 which identified Bradford as the best place in Britain to start a business on the basis of SME growth factors including business rate relief, infrastructure, broadband speed and labour productivity.
The changing narrative is attracting attention and not just in the national media. (Recent Guardian headline: ‘Beautiful Bradford: 15 great reasons to visit the UK’s most-improved city’.) New investors are buying into our growth story. PwC opened its new national assurance centre in the city centre earlier this year, describing Bradford as “the obvious choice”. NEC Group has taken over the Bradford Odeon and is transforming it into a 4,000 capacity venue to open in 2020-21 under the name Bradford Live. Channel 4 is opening its new national headquarters on our doorstep in a nod to the young and diverse talent in our district. And new businesses are starting up all over the place. Last year, Bradford had more than 4,100 new company registrations.
We know that challenges remain. Success does not come overnight. But we have a clear economic growth strategy, which aims to add £4bn to the district economy, generate 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 residents by 2030. We have been making good progress against these targets and we acknowledge important external validation along the way. We know Bradford is a great place to start and grow a company. Our businesses get a bang for their buck. And it’s catching on.