Why businesses should fly the flag for Bradford - Rashmi Dube

I recently attended a lunch that was very well attended.

Bradford is a city which is going places, according to Rashmi Dube

Don’t get me wrong, I think Leeds is an absolutely amazing place and home to a great number of fabulous businesses. With the addition of Channel 4, Burberry and Sky to the city, as the poster says, there is “life outside the M25” – but what about the rest of Yorkshire?

Surely we need to start shouting about it a little more and, in particular, let us not forget the great strength of Bradford. It feels that Bradford is viewed by outsiders (and also at home in Yorkshire) as the poor relation of Leeds. Well today I am here to fly the flag for Bradford and remind us why we should as businesses keep it at the forefront of our minds, particularly in light of the changing economic and political climate.

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You are probably already aware that by 1850 Bradford had become the wool capital of the world with a population of 100,000 “leading to the development of a solid engineering and manufacturing base and a key financial centre which has continued to flourish ever since”.”

What I find fascinating is the wealth of people who have easy access to Bradford in terms of infrastructure, with good routes to the motorway and to London. Having spent a couple of years in the early 2000s working there, I can say that it has moved on considerably, not just in terms of attracting business but also making it a place where people want to come to work who don’t live in the local area. According to the Office of National Statistics, VAT and PAYE figures show the following industries are almost in direct competition with Leeds: (2019)

1. Agriculture, forestry & fishing – Bradford has 315 companies, Leeds has 330.

2. Production – Bradford has 1225 companies, Leeds has 1595.

3. Wholesale – Bradford has 890 companies, Leeds has 1075

4. Retail – Bradford has 1780 companies, Leeds has 2150.

According to NOMIS official labour market statistics 2018, Bradford exceeds the percentage of those in employment in the following sectors:

Manufacturing: Leeds 6.2 per cent, Bradford 13.6 per cent.

■ Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles: Leeds 12 per cent, Bradford 16.2 per cent.

There clearly is not a shortage of labour/skill and a willingness to work closer to home. In 2017, The Yorkshire Post reported how Bradford was one the best cities for a business to start up.

So where are we today? Well, it would seem PwC is among the first to recognise that maybe Leeds is becoming too expensive to run a business from and also that attracting talent could be becoming a struggle.

As of March this year, they have taken the decision to open a new Assurance Centre in Bradford. PwC took over 9000 sq ft of office space at 5 Godwin Street, Bradford [and at the time] recruited sixty members of staff from the local area who will be based in Bradford with the potential to increase this number to 225.

In addition, Bradford is home to a number of engineering firms which of course can have direct access to the undergraduates that study at the university.

Bradford has transformed in recent years, offering those that work there more options and businesses greater benefits both in terms of location and talent. Bradford will have to continue to fight public perception though. Just type “Is Bradford better than Leeds?” into Google and it defaults to “Why is Leeds better than Bradford.?”

The point is neither whether Leeds or Bradford should be better; it is simply what makes good business sense, either as a start-up or in terms of expansion, and how can we continue improving what Yorkshire has to offer business and those who live in this amazing region.

Rashmi Dube is managing director of Legatus Law