Bernard Ginns: Hull won over the Germans, Sheffield charmed the Chinese but who wants Leeds?

HULL WON over the Germans, Sheffield charmed the Chinese, but who wants Leeds?

I ask the question because while the city is going great guns in some respects, it could do with some serious foreign direct investment to lift it up the league of attractive business destinations.

Hull worked hard for a long time to win Siemens’ wind turbine factory. Sheffield persuaded the Chinese engineering giant CISDI to locate its European headquarters in the Steel City.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But what is happening, post Leeds and Partners, to attract investors into West Yorkshire?

Leeds could do with a big financial or professional services firm taking some significant space in the city.

The recent spate of new office lettings is to be welcomed, but these are relocations of existing players, rather than new market entrants.

Simmons and Simmons, the international law firm, has put out a requirement for 200,000 sq ft for the relocation of its City of London headquarters.

The Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership should beat a path to its front door, if it hasn’t already done so.

As ever, Manchester seems to be getting on with it. The city has welcomed City law firms Berwin Leighton Paisner and Freshfields Bruckaus Deringer.

I thought Leeds was supposed to be the leading legal centre outside of London. Why then are these top City firms choosing Manchester?

“That may be because they see the Leeds legal market as actually more congested with lawyers,” said Virginia Clegg, the incoming senior partner at DAC Beachcroft.

“Maybe they have seen a little bit more ability to get whatever it is they say they want.”

Another national senior partner said to me last month that it is easier to recruit teams of lawyers in Manchester than it is in Leeds.

Monica Burch, of Addleshaw Goddard, said: “We have seen a wave of firms thinking about where their offices should be.

“A number of London firms who would not have opened regionally in the UK have opened and that ranges from Belfast to Glasgow to Bristol to Manchester... not yet Leeds.”

A big new investor announcing plans to come to Leeds would be warmly welcomed.

But we shouldn’t just sit back and wait for them to come knocking.

Entrepreneurs will ultimately hold the key to the future success and development of Leeds.

Adam Beaumont, the man behind much of the city’s digital infrastructure, believes that Leeds could host the London Stock Exchange from its own miniature version of Canary Wharf in times of crisis.

Following his imaginative suggestion, the veteran Leeds stockbroker Keith Loudon got in touch. The senior partner at Redmayne-Bentley said: “I welcome the suggestion that Leeds should host a back-up centre for the London Stock Exchange.

“We often call Leeds the second financial centre in the land. I do hope Dr Adam Beaumont will play this card as he works to bring the plan to fruition.

“However, a well-managed international company like the London Stock Exchange will already have an alternative standby site.

“But, of course, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Well done Dr Beaumont, let’s keep plugging Leeds. These are the ideas we need to move the city into the future.”

The potential is here. But who is out there, banging on doors and trying to close deals?