Since our inception in 2015, those coming into our city centre have hopefully caught sight of some of the wonderful attractions that are bringing Leeds to life, made possible by LeedsBID.
The current Leeds Jurassic Trail is the latest in an array of highly popular and eye-catching installations and initiatives brought to you by the BID, which are helping to drive footfall and add vibrancy to the city.
But beyond a T-rex in Trinity, or a Carnotaurus at Kirkgate Market, how do these initiatives contribute to an economically successful city and a vibrant business community? The truth is, that the city centre is our billboard. It shows visitors and residents alike that our city means business – that we are at the forefront of culture, the arts and sport, and that we’re worthy of investment.
The benefits are most intensely felt in the heart of the city, within the LS1 and LS2 postcodes inhabited by our levy payers, but in reality, they stretch much further.
Leeds Station, for example, is the busiest piece of transport infrastructure in the North of England and the third busiest station outside of London, often referred to as the gateway to Yorkshire. Putting our best foot forward when it comes to events of international significance, such as the Leeds International Festival, the Ashes at Headingley Stadium or the Leeds International Piano Competition, pays enormous dividends in putting our city on the global stage.
Whilst eye-catching events and entertainment play an important role in the overall vision of a city and region, there are many behind the scenes investments that are just as crucial. To the untrained eye, the benefits these bring to office workers, for example, might not be as easy to see. But through the improvement of the city centre environment, making it a cleaner, safer and more welcoming place to be, we’re able to attract, retain and grow talent.
Leeds has seen some fantastic employers join the business community over the past five years, with many more set to join, and our role is to ensure that we have a city community benefitting businesses big and small.
Channel 4 is a case in point. Businesses ranging from law firms to creative agencies got behind the bid to bring Channel 4 to the region. The sense of unity that was displayed in the approach was demonstrative of what we’ve experienced over the past five years – no matter the perceptions, the challenges, the ‘underdog status’, we can do great things when we put our minds to it.
Leeds is a major force in the UK economy, and we are rightly shouting that message from the rooftops through our work.
Perception isn’t just important for those who already know and love Leeds, but it’s vital that the first impressions we make ensure people want to tell their friends about our city and return time and time again. With the current focus on the British high street at large, now is the perfect time to focus on the viability and veracity of our town and city centres. The cumulative effect of hundreds of businesses working together is being replicated across the country, and the benefits are there for all to see.
The word ‘collaboration’ is perhaps overused but what has been particularly exciting in our own city, is that firms, often competitors, can see the greater good that can be achieved through partnership working. I’ve yet to see a city that has that same magnetism and sense of unity, as is displayed month in, month out in Leeds.
On September 10 at the City Varieties we’ll be bringing together representatives from businesses and organisations across the city to discuss where we go from here. We will be launching our Business Plan for 2020-2025, so we can build on the important work that has already been done and focus on taking things to the next level.
The success of a city centre has knock-on effects for the success of the wider city and surrounding region and having a friendlier, cleaner, safer and more exciting city are goals that everyone can buy into – and benefit from.
Andrew Cooper is the chief executive of Leeds Bid.