Upgraded transport, affordability and a digitally skilled workforce are helping to bolster Manchester’s fast growth, writes Chris White
London may still be the powerhouse of British business but now it’s no longer essential for companies to be located in and around the capital. Other major cities have developed over the past few years to such an extent that there are firms moving away from London and setting up in other parts of the UK – one, in particular, has exploded in terms of popularity.
Experts are predicting that Manchester is likely to provide more jobs than Berlin, Paris and Tokyo over the next five years. Since 2010, the city has seen an overall growth in employment of 68,154 jobs, which makes it the seventh best for growing employment in the UK.
The north-west is now home to major broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, while the technology sector for one is expanding at a speed that Lewis Hamilton would be happy with!
Everywhere you look there are developments going on around the city with cranes and high-visibility jackets as far as the eye can see, delivering new office blocks and homes.
The transport networks are being redeveloped with a second city crossing well under way on the tram network which already helps commuters to get into the heart of Manchester daily, passing by the luxurious and business-focused Deansgate and Spinningfields areas as well as connecting the two major rail stations, Piccadilly and Victoria, to the rest of the city.
These refurbished transport links, coupled with more trans-Atlantic flights to and from Manchester airport, are making the city much more accessible, so people attending business meetings don’t have to drive. Solid, easy-to-use infrastructure is key to business development, allowing business and communication to be carried out quickly and easily.
So, just what is making Manchester so desirable to both start-ups and established businesses looking to either expand or move to pastures new?
Well, one factor is the talent on offer. The region features some of the most talented individuals from college students to university graduates and those who have been working in their chosen fields for some time.
While many are happy to move to London, others are much more ‘at home’… at home. As such the businesses have made the decision to go to them, capitalising on the skills available and providing new opportunities to those with a range of experience, skills and determination which in turn helps both the company and individual to flourish.
The technology sector is a prime example in this respect. According to an article in the Telegraph in February, which used data from a Tech Nation report, Manchester is the fastest-growing tech city by turnover, with revenues increasing by a whopping 74 per cent year-on-year.
In addition to this, Liverpool – less than an hour’s drive away on the motorway and well connected by rail – has been described as the city with the second-fastest growth in digital companies after Bournemouth.
This has meant that businesses can build their premises in Manchester and attract the very best from Liverpool as well as the Greater Manchester region.
In fact, the technology sector has been doing so well in Manchester that it was announced in February that the Northern Quarter – well known for its trendy bars and cafes – would be home to an initiative called Tech North. A government-backed initiative, the aim is to promote the interests of start-ups in the north in a similar way to London’s Tech City.
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation and StartUp Britain, said: “Manchester has the biggest cluster of high-performing digital firms in the country, according to the Tech Nation report out earlier this year. It is also home to a significant number of leading firms in the IT hardware business, media and entertainment, and FinTech. It’s big on innovation, it’s got the talent and expertise, it’s got the space and the taste – and it’s half the price to live in and work compared to London.
“What is significant here is that some of the more portable tech firms that were established in the city over the year have thrived and not hiked it down to Tech City. They’ve stayed put. With that inspiration and expertise, plus the pricing, it’s a magnet for start-ups to follow suit.”
Moves such as the Tech North campaign are only likely to further stake Manchester’s claim as being the capital outside the capital. As more and more major companies set up home in the north-west, more international – and local – businesses will look to Manchester for help.
Chris White is content and outreach strategist at FireCask and is working in partnership with Alexander & Co accountants
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