Inspirational companies that have helped keep Bradford District going

Bradford City Park

By Dave Baldwin

Whether you’re partial to a pint of Landlord or not, the news that Timothy Taylor is brewing again will provide some cheer that Bradford, and Britain, is getting back to business. It’s what we do best and, after the peak of the pandemic, it’s a welcome relief that companies are finding ways to safely resume operations. I’ll raise a glass to that.

The historic Keighley company halted production of its famous cask ale when lockdown took effect on March 23. But weekly bottled sales more than doubled during the period, according to the family-owned brewery, as beer lovers embraced the new normal. (ONS said UK off-licences saw a 31 per cent rise in volumes in a month.)

Taylor’s thanked its bottling partner Hall & Woodhouse for pulling out the stops to help meet demand. It’s a reminder of the importance of supply chains in helping our economy rebuild after this crisis. Many of our businesses are part of international systems and their global customers can take confidence in the response of Bradford companies like Luxury Fabrics.

Based at Stanley Mills, the textiles manufacturer managed to safely weave its worsted and woollen cloth throughout the lockdown and has continued to dispatch orders. It is starting to see the green shoots of recovery as new enquiries come in from clients in Asia and Europe. “We are fortunate to have a loyal customer base and look forward to working with them as soon as possible,” the company told Drapers.

Morrisons has won praise for its efforts to support its UK supply chain. The Bradford-based grocer has extended its immediate payment policy to smaller suppliers for a further three months. The policy covers around 3,000 small suppliers, including 1,750 farmers. The large supermarket groups have previously faced criticism for their treatment of suppliers so this is a welcome move.

David Potts, chief executive, said: “Small foodmakers and farmers have helped us to play our full part in feeding the nation. They have told us they face continued financial pressure and we want to be there for them during this challenging period.” Morrisons introduced the measures in March. They run until September.

Bradford companies are helping to provide safe environments for people to return to work as the lockdown lifts. Mansfield Pollard, a designer and manufacturer of air management systems, is launching a range of air sterilisation units which kill airborne bacteria and viruses to help support the economic recovery of the UK. 

Lou Frankland, managing director, said: “This technology has been proven to destroy bacteria and viruses, including coronaviruses, bringing huge benefits for the healthcare sector, which is initially our primary focus.”

She added: “But because of its flexibility and mobility, the UV air sterilisation units have the potential to be introduced within a range of working, educational and leisure environments. With this in mind, we are ready to quickly and safely upscale our production to satisfy the demand we expect to see.”

It’s inspiring to see a new wave of entrepreneurs emerging from this crisis. Bradford teenager Harvey Ryder, 18, is using a 3D printer bought as a birthday present to produce vital personal protective equipment for local hospitals, GP practices, pharmacies and care homes. The former Hanson Academy student and his friends have produced 1,500 visors to date.

Sandy Needham, chief executive of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: “Harvey is a wonderful example of a new generation of designers, engineers and manufacturers who embrace today’s digital technology to innovate, produce and supply resources which are vital to the functionality of our region and the country.”

The crisis might be keeping us physically distant, but it is bringing us closer together in other ways. Independent retailers and makers have come together to sell their wares at the virtual Bradford Street Market, a growing Facebook group conceived by Catherine Simes, author of the blog You Can Take the Girl Out of Bradford.

She said: “We wanted to create an online indie quarter to promote the best of Bradford’s independent businesses and an online community-marketplace for them to benefit from a shared online presence and customer base. I really hope that support will continue after the lockdown and that people will appreciate the value of keeping money in the local economy.”

Taken together, you can see that small, medium and large companies are doing their best to support Bradford and Britain as we come out of this crisis. I will leave the last word to Hafsah Syeed, the 20-year-old entrepreneur behind DU’AAA Ltd, which designs and makes affordable modest wear. Speaking about the Bradford business community, she said: “You realise how lucky you are when you’re in Bradford. I love they’ve all got that drive and motivation. They’re not letting anything stop them.”

Bradford Institute for Health Research

By Dave Baldwin

Fifteen years ago, Bradford NHS had just three researchers. Today, it has more than 200 based at the world-beating Bradford Institute for Health Research and working to improve the lives of people across the district. Bradford’s growing reputation for expertise in health research has helped win multi-million pound funding for a new centre for cutting-edge trials, including potential treatments for coronavirus.

The Bradford Patient Recruitment Centre, the only one to be set up in Yorkshire, will enable local patients to take part in late-phase clinical research funded by the life sciences industry and access new drugs for various chronic conditions before they become widely available within the NHS. The Bradford Institute for Health Research, founded in 2007 by the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is running the new centre.

Professor John Wright, director of research at the institute, said the funding announcement was the “culmination of a remarkable journey” in Bradford, which is already home to one of the largest research studies in the world, tracking the lives of 30,000 people born in the district between 2007 and 2010 to better understand the influences on health and wellbeing in families. Prof Wright said the Born in Bradford project will provide important biomedical evidence to the new centre.

“The new facility will be one of the top five centres for clinical trials in the UK,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “It will enable enduring relationships with leading global bioscience companies and ensure inward investment and support economic growth, as well as more importantly allow local patients to access the most cutting-edge drugs.”

Bradford is becoming known as the ‘City of Research’, according to Dr Dinesh Saralya, a consultant respiratory physician and the director of the new centre. Bradford emerged from a shortlist of 35 trusts to win a share of £7m public funding for the project. The money was made available as part of the Government’s strategy to strengthen the UK’s life sciences industry through large-scale trials and is a powerful vote of confidence in Bradford’s progress as a nationally renowned research centre.

Mel Pickup, chief executive of the NHS foundation trust, said: “In these most difficult of times, the race to create effective treatments for Covid-19 is of critical national importance. I am delighted that Bradford Teaching Hospitals will be making a significant contribution to that and that the people of Bradford and the wider region will have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

There are many fine public and private sector endeavours taking place across Bradford during this pandemic. I will be sharing some of these stories over the coming months to remind readers that we are making progress. One particular initiative from the University of Bradford stood out for me this week. It comes from the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies and gives a voice to people living with the syndrome during the lockdown.

The centre has been publishing first-person perspectives of sufferers and their carers in this period of enforced social isolation. The moving accounts have been viewed more than 2,500 times in one month alone. “In times of crisis, people seek personal connections,” said Dr Ana Barbosa, a dementia expert at the university.

For the person writing the blog, it helps them express themselves, connect with others, reduce feelings of isolation and improve wellbeing. For the person reading the blog, it increases knowledge and awareness of dementia and encourages them to identify with the writer. “It helps people to feel they are not alone,” added Dr Barbosa.

The centre is world renowned for its pioneering work in developing the person-centred and mapping approach to dementia care, led by the late Professor Thomas Kitwood and now widely used across the UK. Its latest work highlighting the human stories of the lockdown is to be applauded, offering hope and comfort to sufferers and their families.

For everybody, staying in touch is so important. Sharing positive and inspiring news keeps our spirits up. Over on social media, we urge Bradford-based businesses to spread the word about the good things happening in our district, using the hashtag #TogetherBradfordCan. Regular readers will recall one of my favourite sayings in business: if we can get everyone’s noses pointing the same direction, we can achieve anything. Who knows… we might even find a cure for Covid-19.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership

Coronavirus information in the Bradford District

Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic change to all of our lives. We currently do not have the capacity to keep this website updated but here are some of the resources available to local businesses and people of the Bradford District.

Support for local businesses

Bradford Council is providing support for local businesses through the crisis. The council’s website includes information and support for businesses.

The council is also sending regular coronavirus email updates for businesses, providing the latest information about support available.

Invest in Bradford is also providing guidance to business.

Visit Bradford later

Visit Bradford has produced a local guide to enjoying days in and is offering people plenty of reasons to #VisitBradfordLater.

Bradford’s weekly online market

The new Bradford Street Market is an online market for Bradford’s independent retailers and makers to share their wares during the lockdown. Independent businesses, makers and artists come together on Facebook every Thursday in “an online indie quarter to promote the best of Bradford.”

Something special is brewing in the Bradford District

City Park illuminated at dusk

By Dave Baldwin

Thirteen years ago, in a godforsaken industrial estate in north east Scotland, BrewDog came howling into the world. Or so the legend goes on the corporate website. Today, the £1bn craft beer brewer claims to be the fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK and is breaking into international markets “like a shark on steroids”.

BrewDog is bringing its unique brand identity to Bradford with plans to open a branch in the city centre. The company is reported to be taking over the historic old Bradford Baths building in Randall Well Street – most recently home to the Brew Haus pub – with its exposed brickwork, steel beams and antique light fittings. 

The new opening will create around 20 new jobs across the bar, floor and kitchen in partnership with Red’s True Barbecue, another well-known catering brand. A recruitment notice from Brewdog announces its “mission to bring amazing craft beer and awesome barbecue to the people of Bradford”, adding “this is an amazing opportunity to build and inspire an amazing crew to rock BrewDog Bradford and help us drive the craft beer revolution!”

The company has thrived by setting itself apart from the drinks industry establishment. I remember BrewDog launching its Equity for Punks fundraising by driving an armoured vehicle to the Bank of England. Talk about parking your tanks on the lawn. Red’s True Barbecue had similarly bold arrival in the northern hospitality sector. The founders certainly livened up business awards events with their tattoos, beards and baseball caps.

Taken together, they will bring a breath of fresh air to Bradford’s West End. This part of town is undergoing substantial regeneration with the transformation of the former Odeon into a world-class entertainment venue. Bradford Live is set to open in the next 12 months and is expected to bring in crowds of 300,000 people per year with an annual calendar of 200-plus music, comedy and family entertainment events.

Developer NEC Group plans to put Bradford back on the map for major touring artists. Chairman Phil Mead said: “The venue has seen legends play there, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll see legends play there again.”

Across the way, St George’s Hall, recently restored to the tune of £9.5m, is attracting big names since its refurbishment – notably Paul Weller and John Lydon. The Modfather and Sex Pistol are playing on successive nights in November – that should be a lively 48 hours. 

Highlights at the Alhambra include the return of singer and actress Alexandra Burke, who opened Broadway shopping centre back in stirring fashion back in 2015. She is touring the new musical, My Best Friend’s Wedding. Is it too early to mention the Sleeping Beauty pantomime is now booking?

Other developments in the West End area include the £4.6m focus point of faith called Fountains Church in a former nightclub overlooking City Park. The Church of England has said the new church will have “a strong Bradford identity: young, entrepreneurial, ethnically and culturally diverse, and confident about holding out a clear religious offer and call in the public space”. The point being, the area is on the up.

Further up, the Top of the Town is in line for new investment after Bradford Council secured nearly £1m in external funding to begin delivery of the first phase of the 1,000-home City Village project. The new money, which will be spent on improving public areas along North Parade, is in addition to the £2m secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore key heritage buildings in the conservation area. And don’t forget the new Darley Street Market, a £21m food hall development which bursts into life this spring and the biggest single regeneration project at present.

This decade, the city centre will be transformed as developers commit to the district. In the One City Park project, Muse will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space. At Forster Square, Morgan Sindall will carry out a £17m redevelopment of the railway station with improved facilities, public spaces and better access to city centre for the benefit of commuters, shoppers and all those fun-seekers flocking to our revitalised West End.

Back to BrewDog. Its vision is to make everyone as passionate about craft beer as it is. Our mission is to make everyone as passionate about Bradford as we are. I can’t promise a “shark on steroids” but it’s pretty clear something special is brewing in our district.

Cleaning up the air in Bradford District

Traffic on Keighley Road in Shipley

By Dave Baldwin

Bradford is tackling the issue of air pollution head on. The local authority is consulting on plans to introduce a ‘clean air zone’. From October 2021, non-compliant vehicles like buses, coaches, taxis, heavy and light goods vehicles would pay a daily charge to drive into the zone. Private cars would be exempted from the charge. The council is also considering exemptions for small business owners, charities, school, emergency and other specialist vehicles.

Measures to reduce air pollution will have significant beneficial impacts on our children’s health. “Air pollution is harming young lungs. Let’s beat it and unleash our children’s true potential,” said the Breathe GB campaign group.

The shift to a low-carbon economy will be bumpy but will bring economic rewards, as well as environmental ones. According to Defra, cleaner air leads to increased productivity through improvements in public health, leading to reduced workplace absence, and the creation of an environment that is appealing to businesses and the public alike. Pollutants were estimated to be responsible for total productivity losses of up to £2.7 billion a year.

Any change causes uncertainty. But it also brings opportunity. The Government wants to make the UK a world leader in the goods and services focused on tackling air pollution, such as abatement technology, monitoring equipment and modelling skills. It estimates the low-carbon economy has the potential to generate up to £170bn in export sales by 2030. With our advanced manufacturing sector, Bradford should have a chunk of that. 

We know our business community leads the way in many areas of environmental performance. A 2019 survey of 2,000-plus companies across the city region revealed Bradford businesses are more likely to operate schemes to save energy, water and waste. They will tend to use environmentally friendly technologies and have formal environmental accreditations. And they will probably have taken action to clean up their supply chains. Businesses undertaking at least one of these actions are more likely to report stronger growth in turnover and employment.

Bradford has exceptional expertise in what is known as the ‘circular economy’. This is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems. The University of Bradford introduced the world’s first circular economy MBA in 2011, equipping students and sponsoring bodies with the skills to use resources and energy more effectively, reuse products and materials and deliver increased profits.

We have to be ambitious. The council submitted a business case to Government that aims to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide to EU limits within the shortest possible timeframe. Ministers have accepted the plan and provided £4m in initial funding to start work. The plan will help vehicle operators to upgrade to zone standards, support the roll-out of electric charging stations across the district, encourage ride sharing and invest in bus, cycle and walking routes.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Healthy People and Healthy Places at Bradford Council, said: “Improving our air quality is a very serious issue that literally costs lives every year and we are determined to take action. It disproportionately affects more vulnerable communities in our district which is why the clean air zone and additional proposals are so important to making Bradford a healthier place to live, work and visit.”

Born in Bradford, the pioneering large-scale research programme, is informing policy development and will analyse the effects of the clean air plan. Dr Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, said: “We’re proud that our Born in Bradford findings are helping the council find new and ambitious ways of tackling pollution within the district and are planning an exciting new research project to evaluate the impact of the clean air plan on air quality and health. We will be working with Born in Bradford families across the district and training up school children as air quality ‘citizen scientists’ to help monitor the effects on health and wellbeing.”

Cleaning up our act will take maximum effort from public, private and third sector and we will need everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Getting it right will help create a more inclusive economy that everyone can succeed in.

Bradford is one of the best places to do business

Bradford city skyline

By Dave Baldwin

Bradford, by virtue of a simple but salient metric of economic growth, is one of the best places for business in 2020, according to The Sunday Times. The newspaper’s reckoning comes courtesy of ‘gross value added per worker’, a measure of the value generated by any unit engaged in the production of goods and services. With a figure of £48,694, Bradford is 15th in the UK, ahead of places like Newcastle, Glasgow, Sheffield, Belfast and Nottingham. That’s quite an achievement.

The Centre for Cities think tank produced the analysis using the latest available numbers from the National Office for Statistics. The results appeared in a special supplement sponsored by KPMG. The report resonated with us because it represents yet more national recognition of the progress being made by our district, which is so important in changing perceptions of Bradford.

Euan West, who heads KPMG in Yorkshire, told us: “As an advisory firm born in the North and celebrating our 150th anniversary, we supported The Sunday Times’ Best Places for Business report because we wanted to shine a light on how much cities like Bradford offer as a home to commerce. The city earned its place in the report due to its economic vibrancy; its GVA per worker of almost £49,000 represents a rise of approximately a fifth in the last decade. And no wonder, with a youthful talent pool, regeneration of the city centre and beyond, a great position along the M62 corridor plus playing an important role in the wider Leeds City Region.”

The report highlighted our £10.1bn economy, our youthful population, one of the youngest in the UK, and our proud business history typified by the likes of the late Sir Ken Morrison, who transformed a small family business into a national grocery giant. This potential has seen businesses set up or move to Bradford and helped the district recover from the decline of the textiles industry, it said. Start-ups are attracted by low commercial rents, good road infrastructure and fast broadband: strong growth factors which led Barclays to name Bradford the best place in Britain to start a business.

It’s catching: the district gave birth to 4,185 new start-ups, including 166 new tech companies, in 2019, according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs. That’s an increase of 1.41 per cent on 2018. The Sunday Times singled out Incuto, the Ilkley-based fintech firm, Tarte and Berry, the Pudsey-based artisan baker, and Power Sheds, the Bradford-based online retailer, as ones to watch in the district.

Access to talent is everything for fast-growing businesses. The University of Bradford plays an important part in this respect. The report listed Professor Zahir Irani, pro-vice chancellor for academic innovation and quality, as an influencer in the district along with Kersten England CBE, chief executive of Bradford Council, and Ian Mann, CEO of cyber security firm ECSC. Prof Irani said: “The University of Bradford is playing a vital role in creating a skilled and educated workforce for the region.” Too right.

If anything, the university’s position will become more important in the coming years. As well as investing in new transport infrastructure, such as the High Speed North east-west rail line (and yes, we must have a city centre stop in Bradford), the Government wants to strengthen “innovation systems” to support the resurgence of the regions. A leading thinker in this field, Professor Richard Jones of Sheffield University, has argued that “public investments in new translational research facilities will attract private sector investment, bring together wider clusters of public and business research and development, institutions for skills development, and networks of expertise, boosting innovation and leading to productivity growth”. 

New capacity should be built in areas like health and social care, said Prof Jones, whose work has been cited in a blog by the Prime Minister’s chief advisor, a clear indicator of intent. This approach creates significant opportunities for Bradford. Under new Vice Chancellor Shirley Congdon, the university is backing opportunities in existing strengths including health and well-being, healthcare sciences, peace and international development, business, organisations and management, engineering, data science and technology.

Bradford is fighting its way back. The growth in productivity – rising by nearly a fifth of the last decade – is a great achievement considering the difficult circumstances after the financial crash and resulting austerity. This shows our spirit of enterprise is strong as is our will to succeed, whatever the challenges we might face. With the right backing, Bradford’s future looks bright.

The new Darley Street Market is another piece of Bradford’s jigsaw

Darley Street Market artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

The people have spoken. They have chosen a name for the biggest project to date in the ongoing regeneration of Bradford city centre. The £21m market development will be called Darley Street Market. The simple but effective title was chosen by nearly half of respondents in a public survey launched late last year.

What’s in a name? First, it clearly signals the location for visitors to the city. And second, it draws on the heritage of Bradford’s historic high street, the location of markets for more than a century. The combination of location, heritage and investment are essential for any successful regeneration.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport at Bradford Council, said: “The markets have a special place for so many Bradford residents and therefore it was very important for us to consult with as many people across the Bradford district.

“We want residents to be involved in the new market project and what better way than to decide on the name for the new market. Darley Street Market was the overwhelming favourite as people made clear they wanted a name that was direct, celebrated the heritage of the street and gave a clear indication as to its location.

“We are fully committed to delivering the extensive reconstruction of the markets offer in the city centre and this is another step in creating a space that not only offers an innovative shopping experience, but also a place that the local community feels belongs to them.”

The project will burst into life this spring. The destruction of several vacant stores will make space for the creation of a beautiful new multi-storey market building. Large windows will bathe the interiors with natural light, multiple entrances will welcome shoppers and a public square will connect Piccadilly and Darley Street and provide a place for open air events and outdoor stalls. Filled with food, fashion and other fare from every corner of the world, it will be irresistible.

The council has appointed Kier as its preferred bidder for the development. Phil McDowell, operations director at Kier Regional Building Northern, said: “This vital regeneration project is the largest to be undertaken in Bradford and will provide a dynamic, vibrant and diverse shopping location for visitors. We’re thrilled to be appointed as preferred bidder to work with Bradford Council and are committed to delivering a project that benefits the community.”

Darley Street Market will be split across three floors, each with their own special identity and environment. The lower ground floor will focus on dry foods within a vaulted structure intended to be warm and intimate. The upper ground floor will house the main fresh food stalls. The first floor will host a world food court with communal seating areas.

It’s going to be great. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the byword for market developments in Britain in the same way the award-winning City Park has established itself as one of the best examples of reimagined public spaces in the 21st century.

The entire city centre will be transformed this decade as developers commit to the district. In the One City Park project, Muse will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space. At Forster Square, Morgan Sindall will carry out a £17m redevelopment of the railway station with improved facilities, public spaces and better access to city centre for the benefit of commuters, shoppers and visitors. In the area around the Top of Town, a city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned.

All this adds up to something significant. This is what happens when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Investment, jobs and growth will follow. The people are getting behind it, as demonstrated by the 1,200 individual responses to the survey on public markets. This is a renewal of pride and ambition.

The Sunday Times hails Bradford as one of the best places to do business

Bradford city skyline

Bradford has been named by The Sunday Times as one of the 20 best places for doing business in the UK.

The city came in 15th on the paper’s ‘Best places for business 2020’ guide, beating Newcastle, Glasgow, Sheffield, Belfast and Nottingham.

Judges hailed Bradford’s £10.1bn economy and young population, and mentioned that start-up founders are attracted by low commercial rents, good transport infrastructure and fast broadband.

The Sunday Times stated that ‘Recent years have seen regeneration sweep through Bradford’ and that ‘A range of redevelopment projects are part of a programme to add an extra £4bn to the economy by 2030’.

Bradford Council’s Chief Executive, Kersten England was noted as a key ‘Influencer’ and the authority’s financial support schemes for small businesses were highlighted.

Last year Bradford was named the most improved city in the UK to live and work by PwC, and in 2018 the city was hailed the best city in the UK to start a business by analysts from Barclays bank.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “We are very pleased to see that once again Bradford is being tipped as a great place to do business.

“Our growth schemes have been very successful in helping businesses create hundreds of new jobs and our broader economic strategy has been designed to create the right environment for businesses to flourish.”