As a place to do business, the North East takes some beating as well-established firms and those currently setting down roots, notably Hitachi, will contest.
Recent times, however, has seen a slowdown in foreign investment into the region – a fact that the North East Chamber of Commerce are keen to reverse.
And the chance to encourage investment, showcase the region’s business successes and highlight the vast number of North East sites ripe for development comes to the fore next week – the result of a determined collaboration between the private and public sector.
North East Sites for Growth – part of the North East Commercial Property & Development Showcase 2014 where over 80 businesses exhibit – bringing together bring Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI), Developing Consensus, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), the Combined Local Authority (LA7), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and G9, the group of chartered surveyors comprising BNP Paribas Real Estate, DTZ, Gavin Black & Partners, GVA, Knight Frank, Lambert Smith Hampton, Sanderson Weatherall, Storeys Edward Symmons, Sykes Property Consultants and Naylors Chartered Surveyors.
Hosted by UK Land Estates, the one-day event on Thursday, June 19, unfolds at Kingsway North, Team Valley and delivers a unique chance for those considering setting up base within the region to meet companies from the commercial property world, look at developments coming through and, importantly, hear from those already growing rapidly as a result of their key location, including Gateshead-headquartered motor retailer Vertu.
The North East Commercial Property & Development Showcase will also see the official launch of the NELEP’s commercial property database website – www.locatenortheastengland.co.uk – which covers key properties and sites in the region.
Michael Spriggs, managing director of UK Land Estates, said: “Everybody is on board. Just in terms of cooperation within the region this is a great story.
“Everyone within the public and private sectors wants to promote the cracking sites we have here.”
Keynote speeches on the day are set to be delivered by Mauricio Armellini, chief economist at the NELEP, Dianne Sharp, the new regional director for the CBI and James Ramsbotham, chief executive, NECC, who told Journal Business of the event’s aims.
He said: “This is all part of a broad drive. Over the last 25 years the North East has been incredibly successful in encouraging foreign businesses to come here.
“Nissan is the most high profile and Hitachi the most recent, and there are a whole raft of others who see the North East as a great place to invest, not just to get a foothold into the UK and Europe but across the length and breadth of the region.
“However, over the last three to four years that has dried up for a number of reasons and we really want to get it on an even keel again, and a number of us are working very hard on doing that.
“The NECC and CBI are working very closely with G9 and Michael Spriggs of UK Land Estates and we believe that the region is punching below its weight and could do much more.
“In the North East we have the space in which to do things – the South East is totally overcrowded and there’s no room to do more – and we desperately need to do more.
“We also have people with the skills to do things, and people available to make businesses work.
“We are the most productive region in the UK and we are also the only region with a surplus of water and energy.
“What the event will show is that there is no shortage of space – a group at Cobalt are creating a database for the NELEP that will show all of the property assets available, and there are many fantastic places with world class facilities available and there’s room to grow more, from Science City in Newcastle to Team Valley, Quorum and Silverlink and the local authority enterprise zones.
“Really we want everybody to get the message and spread the message that the region is a great place to do business. In particular we want those involved with inward investment to come along.”
Gavin Black, chairman of the G9 group, said: “The presence of over 30 commercial property exhibitors and the speeches by the three keynote speakers makes this one day event very important for the region’s property sector.
“As G9 acts as one in addressing the key issues affecting the region’s global profile, and the potential threat to successfully attracting inward investment, this event shows that even wider interests can work together for the benefit of the region as a whole.
As a result we expect regional companies that are looking to expand, national investors, institutions and pension funds together with their advisers to be present.”
Black said footloose inward investment “is extremely fierce”, promoting an urgency to promote the region at the highest level to be able to compete with the likes of Scotland, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham.
“We are catching up with the formation of the regional combined authority,” he said.
“This will bring us in line with other UK locations enabling the region to deal with primary functions including economic regeneration, transport, infrastructure investment and the securing of future central government funding.”
Motor retailer Vertu Motors plc has grown rapidly since forming in late 2006, and now boasts more than 100 outlets.
And since embarking on its “buy and build” strategy the firm is more than satisfied to maintain its North East headquarters, with chief executive Robert Forrester asserting how the business is well rooted in the region.
The AIM-listed firm was formed in late 2006 to acquire and consolidate UK motor retail businesses.
In 2007 the firm bought the entire share capital of the Bristol Street Group Ltd, retailers which began as a single Ford dealership in the early 1900s in central Birmingham.
Since then, the business has grown to become the sixth largest automotive retail brands in the UK employing some 3,900 people, with a nationwide chain of franchised motor dealerships offering sales, service, parts and bodyshop facilities for new and used car and commercial vehicles.
The group operates a number of premium franchise dealerships – mostly recently acquiring its first Jaguar dealership in Lancashire through the £8.2m buy-out of Hillendale Group – and is also the largest operator of Honda dealerships in the UK.
In 2010 Vertu Motors expanded into Scotland, trading under the Macklin Motors brand and following a transformational year last year the firm now has 108 outlets representing 19 manufacturers across the UK.
Robert Forrester, said: “Vertu Motors is proud to have its head office in the North East.
“This is a vibrant region with a growing economy and a pool of talented people for our expanding workforce.
“Team Valley itself, where the North East Sites for Growth is being held, is a diverse, thriving business community and I am pleased to be involved in showcasing the excellent opportunities available.”