Sheffield City (Great Britain) Region: Investing in Success
Submitted by Patrick Dine on behalf of Sheffield City Region
The Sheffield City Region in Great Britain is all about relevance and growth. Local businesses and the public sector are fixated on it. With investments from globally renowned brands such as The Boeing Co., Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Virgin Media Inc. and insurance group Aviva, the region’s economic output is $36.5 billion, roughly the size of Latvia’s and twice that of Iceland. Since 2002, Sheffield has seen the completion of more than 500,000 square meters of commercial development and the center is dotted by modern glass and steel buildings.
Investing in the City
This means Sheffield is increasingly recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most business-friendly cities in the United Kingdom (UK), and it’s easy to see why. The city has transformed into a modern, cosmopolitan and multicultural hive of activity, featuring impressive public places and great commercial property.
The impressive new business district embodies the confidence in the city’s future. Occupied by DLA Piper, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Department for Education and the Department Business Innovation & Skills, the district is well served by popular bars and restaurants. The city works hard at the things that matter to business, making Sheffield a vibrant and competitive location of choice.
Confidence from international investors is strong, demonstrated in 2014 by the announcement of a £65 million property deal for a commercial development by Chinese consortium, New Era Development. Jerry Cheung, managing director, New Era Development (UK) Limited, says: “This development is a significant inward investment in the Sheffield City Region. It is a landmark project for an area of the city which will be transformed into a modern, cultural and enjoyable location for all.”
The established banking sector in Sheffield is growing. This year the government opened its British Business Bank in Sheffield. The bank has been allocated £1 billion to boost economic development in the UK.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says: “I’m proud the bank will be based in Sheffield. It’s a huge vote in confidence of our city and demonstrates the excellent business skills located here.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable states the bank will help the UK’s 4.9 million small and medium-sized firms. “It is a new long-term institution which is helping to create more competition in the banking sector and give access to finance to businesses when they need to invest in their future growth.”
The British Business Bank expects to generate more than £500 million in new lending and investment for the UK’s smaller businesses each year.
It is clear to see why Sheffield was chosen for the British Business Bank. Financial and business services are one of the largest sectors in the area employing 11 percent of the workforce. The banking and finance sector is strong in Sheffield, employing 18,900 people. HSBC is one of the largest private sector employers in the city, employing over 3,700 people in a variety of functions including a global IT shared service center. This is recognized by Richard Dunlop, COO, HSBC Technology and Services, Europe: “Sheffield is crucial to the operations of HSBC, a fact recognized by the decision to invest many millions of pounds in developing our IT operations in the area … Sheffield is the principal home of HSBC’s IT operations in Europe.”
A Young and Loyal Workforce
One of the reasons Sheffield is popular is due to customer service excellence and a relatively young workforce who are skilled, flexible and passionate, with a population of over 2.1 million. The two world class universities produce 21,400 graduates a year and the City Region boasts one of the highest student retention rates in the UK. Large companies, entrepreneurs and emerging talent alike are drawn here by market opportunities, business benefits and hardworking people who have a thirst for knowledge and improvement.
Royal Mail employ more than 300 staff in Europe’s largest HR shared service center in Sheffield. Dermot Toberty, director of HR services for Royal Mail Group, says: “The Sheffield labor market is excellent and we do not regret having centered our operations here …. Sheffield has and will continue to be a brilliant city for us.”
The Sheffield City Region is a proven low risk location, with a growing commercial sector attracting new businesses of all sizes each year. It is a place capable of translating strategic vision into operational success. The big names and multinationals enjoying the benefits in the City Region include: HSBC, Aviva, Cap Gemini, Capita, DLA Piper, Sky, Royal Mail and British Telecom.
The numbers add up too. Sheffield is independently benchmarked as one of the most cost-effective cities in the UK for property and staff. Combine this with great connectivity, the service quality in the UK’s fourth-largest city, plus the business friendly environment and it’s a very powerful offer. According to the Office for National Statistics, salaries in Sheffield are 29 percent lower than in London, while grade A office space is 40 percent cheaper than in the UK capital. Businesses can reduce operating costs, improve processes and service, drive out waste, gain economies of scale, and add value by choosing Sheffield City Region.
Digital Media Sheffield
The city of Sheffield has come to be synonymous with a variety of things over the past centuries, steel is the obvious one, but it is also home to the world’s oldest soccer club, and in creative fields it punches above its weight when it comes to providing musicians — from renowned vocalist Joe Cocker, through 1980s legends Human League and ABC, to more contemporary acts such as Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys —and it is the setting for various films including “The Full Monty” and “The History Boys.” Another string the city is adding to its bows is its growing reputation as a hub for creative and digital media and information and communications technology (ICT).
One of the first people to capitalize on Sheffield’s strengths is Lee Strafford, a local entrepreneur. After years spent in London he was looking for a place to start his telecoms company. London would have been the obvious choice, but Strafford decided to return home to Sheffield. He says, “I realized that there was an opportunity to bring graduates from local universities with people from industry to build and innovative business in a low-cost location.” Plusnet, the company he co-founded went on to become one of the UK’s most popular internet providers and was acquired by BT Group in a deal worth £67 million.
Another forerunner who exemplifies Sheffield’s ICT excellence is David Richards, co-founder of Wandisco, a company creating specialized software for distributed computing. Soon after founding the company in Silicon Valley, Calif., in 2005, Wandisco’s founders started looking for a cheaper location to outsource part of its operations.
Richards is originally from Sheffield, but he says his decision to locate in the city was not based on sentiment. “We actually tried London first, but we could not find the right candidates for the remuneration we offered at that time,” he says. Then in 2009, Wandisco approached Sheffield City Council about potential incentives should the company move part of its operation. Fast forward five years and Wandisco’s Sheffield office employs 70 people (nearly twice the headcounts of its U.S. office), with Richards stating that the company, which in April 2012 floated on the London Stock Exchange, owes much of its success to its Sheffield connection.
Against this backdrop of private sector confidence, the public sector has carefully designed a number of initiatives to support growth. This includes a dedicated investment team able to deliver a bespoke and free service which includes: labor market analysis, local industry profiling, HR support and advice regarding training subsidies, advice regarding access to funding, property search, introductions to networks and advice regarding collaboration activities. Further enhancing the appeal of the region are various incentive programs including the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) of which £49.5 million has been allocated to help local companies grow.
For complete details about conducting business in the Sheffield City Region, visit www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk. The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership directs economic development efforts in the region. It is a collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure the growth of a rebalanced local economy and contribute to the renewal of the national economy. The Sheffield City Region has a diverse economy, and cities and towns. The City Region encompasses more than 1.8 million people and approximately 700,000 jobs.
Image courtesy of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership