As the North West overtakes the South East to become the UK’s most entrepreneurial region outside London, Martin O’Rourke, Commercial Director at Birchwood Park – the largest single-owned out of town business park in the North West – examines what is drawing businesses to the region and how Birchwood Park is looking to support local start-ups.
The Entrepreneurial North West
Business is thriving in the heart of the North West; over the past 12-18 months we’ve seen a surge in the number of larger businesses relocating and/or opening up new operating locations in the region, bringing with them jobs and boosting our local economy. It’s so encouraging to see that, despite Brexit uncertainty, our region hasn’t lost its entrepreneurial spirit.
It’s exciting to see new data emerge from Start Up Loans, an arm of the British Business Bank which provides personal loans for business purposes of up to £25,000, showing that here in the North West we’re now second only to London in terms of investment into start-up businesses. In fact, the Government-backed programme has now provided over £65million in funding to North West start-ups, delivering more than 8,000 loans to local business over the last seven years since its launch – this compares with 6,062 loans and almost £52 million in funding for the South East, the next largest region.
These latest stats that indicate such a healthy business opportunity in the region, follows on from analysis earlier this year by the Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership which revealed that Warrington’s economy is a staggering 40% above the North West average, and 21% above the national average*, contributing a massive £30.9bn to the UK economy.
A Warrington and the North West benefits from a whole swathe of new business, it’s important to look at exactly what makes us stand out from the rest. We’ve seen businesses move their sights away from London, and we’re now also seeing a pattern of businesses begin to migrate away from the city centre too. For this reason, accessibility and great local transport links have never been more important – especially for those smaller companies which may find themselves having to commute in order to grow their client base and their businesses. This is where business parks need to step up and set themselves apart, and that’s why at Birchwood Park we’re proud to boast the very best in transport links for our occupiers. Right in the centre of all the transport links, the Park is just two miles from the M6/M62 interchange, 18 minutes via train from Manchester city centre, 25 minutes from Manchester airport, and 35 minutes via train to Liverpool city centre. We can also boast excellent road links following a recent upgrade of the road system surrounding the Park, meaning it’s often a much smoother journey to the likes of Manchester airport than from most Manchester city centre buildings, and our central location gives access to a huge working population within a 45-minute catchment.
We also know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the workplace, and so flexibility for businesses is of upmost importance. We’re able to offer our occupiers on the Park, both current and potential, a c tailored approach to finding office space perfectly suited to them and have a whole host of small suites available to smaller businesses. We’ve seen 20small businesses join us on the Park, of which 8 are start-ups, and many stay with us – leading to a 90% retention rate. We believe it’s our flexibility when it comes to offering office size, services provided and the amenities they have access to, which makes us stand out from the rest. In fact, looking at our occupiers that started out in our smaller office suites, in the last 18 months we’ve also seen 15 go on to increase their employee base and move to larger offices on the Park, a true testament to the success of business in the region.
In order for businesses to not only survive, but thrive, in today’s climate, innovation must be front of mind – and that also means commercial business parks must look to innovate in their offerings, including providing modern and innovative communal areas and a greater emphasis on workplace wellbeing as we do at Birchwood Park.