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Jo Haywood finds out if Leeds leads the way when it comes to business
A lot of places claim to be Englands second city, but Leeds has more reasons than most.
Its the UKs largest centre for business, legal and financial services outside London, and is home to six of the UKs largest law firms, nine of the top ten accountancy practices and 30 national and international banks including the headquarters of First Direct and Yorkshire Bank.
Leeds is also the UKs third largest centre for manufacturing, producing a diverse range of products from buses and sports cars to medical devices and oil industry infrastructure, and has the benefit of a vast pedestrianised shopping quarter, reverentially referred to as the Knightsbridge of the north.
Lets face it, if London suddenly vanished off the face of the earth, the Queen would pack her bags and move lock, stock and corgi to West Yorkshire in a heartbeat.
And she would be joining a growing throng. The Office for National Statistics estimates that Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
But why do so many top lawyers, financiers, property developers and innovative entrepreneurs make the decision to do business in this stylish West Yorkshire city?
The Leeds city region is a fabulous place to locate your business, said Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy at Leeds,
York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. Its well placed to service UK and international markets, it is on a cross roads with good road and rail links east-west and north-south. It is home to world class universities and the UKs third largest further education college, which supports a very large and diverse commercial and industrial base.
The city is also home to around 1,000 shops offering in excess of 200,000 square metres of retail therapy. Briggate is the main pedestrianised shopping area, with most shoppers flocking to the numerous covered arcades including the not-to-be-missed glass encased Victoria Quarter.
But Leeds is not just about spending money; its also about making it. Glenn Cooper, managing director of Boutique Catering, has built up a multi-million pound business in the city, making him one of the regions biggest players in the hospitality industry.
The city benefits from some unique and extraordinary architecture and were lucky enough to have cafes and event venues in some of the best, he said. There arent many hospitality companies who can provide events ranging from a dinner in a Burmantoft tiled reading room to a champagne reception by a penguin pool. We like to think were unique and Leeds, as a very special city, has helped us to achieve this.
Among the firms flocking to Leeds to reap the rewards of doing business in such a vibrant environment is law firm Dickinson Dees, which has just opened the doors of its new 17,000 sq ft office in the city and announced a string of senior appointments across all departments. Senior partner John Marshall explained: By moving to one of top commercial and financial cities in the country, we are positioning ourselves for further expansion of our business.
If we are to meet our ambitious plans to grow our business, its important for us to seize the opportunities presented in Leeds and across the region.
The move to Leeds has already attracted a number of top lawyers to Dickinson Dees, including Mark Owen, formerly head of Pinsent Mason in the city; Nick Mason, who has joined as a partner in the commercial disputes group from the National Trust and David Cunningham, who has moved from Eversheds to become director of the commercial team.
But the firm doesnt see its move to Leeds as a one-way deal.
Yes, its a major business opportunity, but its also keen to give something back to its new home city. First off the bat is the commercial sponsorship of Yorkshire County Cricket Clubs academy as well as support for Northern Ballets premier dancers who are now based in Leeds.
Our association with these popular and high-profile organisations illustrates a firm and lasting commitment to sport and the arts in Yorkshire, said John Marshall. Our move to Leeds places us at the heart of the legal and commercial community, but we are determined to be part of the wider social and cultural fabric of the city too.
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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