Despite worry about the impact Brexit may have on the country’s economy, Leeds is standing strong.
Businesses across the UK were shocked by the European Union (EU) result in June 2016. While Brexit was a concept that caused much division and controversy, much of the country didn’t believe that a Leave vote would actually happen, and with the polls predicting a Remain majority, for those who were intent on staying part of the EU, there seemed little to worry about.
The Leave vote, however, did happen. Business professionals in the UK were shocked by the result and the financial market was flooded with uncertainty. While there is still much concern surrounding what will happen, little has changed for companies who have returned to ‘business as usual’ with Article 50 yet to be invoked.
For cities in England, things have actually moved from strength to strength and in the north in particular the economy continues to grow, with no sign of slowing. In Leeds, the city economy is on course to be £184 million larger by the end of 2017 than it was in the three months after the EU referendum result, according to a new study by law firm Irwin Mitchell.
As part of the UK Powerhouse report, it was revealed that the value of goods and services in the city will grow by 0.6 per cent this year and employment levels 3,700 higher, despite the cloud of an incoming ‘hard Brexit’.
A strong performance
Although the coming year may bring new challenges for the city, professionals in Leeds are optimistic about 2017. Andrew Walker, head of business legal services of Irwin Mitchell's Leeds office, said: "Challenges bring opportunities and exporters in West Yorkshire are taking advantage of their hedged import costs compared to forex rates.
"Also, the government's pledge of £15 million to support Northern Powerhouse trade missions and £7 million to establish a Northern Powerhouse Investment Taskforce is a huge step in the right direction and will help ensure the economy is firing on all cylinders in a post-Brexit Britain."
For businesses in the city this is great news but it is also positive for those looking to start-up in Leeds, or for companies situated in the UK that are considering relocating to the north. Contributing to the city’s growing economy are numerous developments across Leeds, including the expansion of newly designed office buildings to accommodate Leeds thriving business scene. Located next to the city’s only train station, Bruntwood’s Platform development has seen the reinvention of a landmark building which now offers a stimulating and collaborative workspace for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
In addition to this, Bruntwood has developed 3 Sovereign Square, a statement office, leisure and retail space at the heart of the city. The building is part of a scheme to transform this area of the city and has recently been sold to Leeds City Council for £43.75 million, but Bruntwood will continue to manage the building.
Craig Burrow, director of Leeds at Bruntwood commented: “The opportunity to bring this strategic piece of land forward came to us in 2011 and I’m delighted that we’ve now reached this significant milestone following starting on-site in January 2015.
“The regeneration of the whole site, including KPMG’s new home 1 Sovereign Square and the new landscaped square, has totally transformed this area of the city centre and I’m really proud of our contribution to further cementing Leeds place as a business destination.”
In the past couple of years, big businesses like Sky have relocated to Leeds, with their betting and gaming office situated in the centre, and their new technology hub at Leeds Dock. Fashion label Burberry have also moved to the city and plan to make a £50 million investment building a state of the art manufacturing and weaving facility in the South Bank.
Live and work happily in Leeds
With businesses and hard work comes recreation, and the need for spaces and developments where the people of Leeds can relax and enjoy themselves. In October 2016, Leeds Victoria Gate opened its doors to the public. This new shopping centre pulled the city up to third position on Javelin’s UK retail rankings and secured the city’s position as one of the major players in the Northern Powerhouse. The retail space is also being recognised as the biggest premium retail and leisure venue in Northern England and later this month the largest casino in the north will be unveiled at the site.
Victoria Gate Casino, which is operated by Global Gaming Ventures, will be the third-largest casino in the UK. The casino will also feature a live bar, a cocktail venue and a restaurant that will showcase the best produce from across Yorkshire and hopes to attract many of the city’s professionals. Plans to develop the surrounding areas of Victoria Gate are also underway with a number of rooftop bars due to open.
It’s fair to say that Leeds is building up quite the reputation for attracting big businesses and investments. While what the future will bring for the city can’t be predicted, what is certain is that the year ahead promises to be an exciting one.