In the month that real estate specialist DTZ identified Leeds as the most attractive city for prime commercial property investment¹, Fraser Projects spoke to The Yorkshire Times about business confidence returning to the county.
Having achieved turnover of almost £500,000 in 2013, Leeds-based building refurbishment specialist Fraser Projects relocated earlier this year, to new office space in Morley more than 10 times the size of its previous base on Gelderd road.
However the move was not about the 28-strong team ‘looking the part’. With a strong forward order book and turnover of £1.5m forecast for 2014, the company is set to recruit at least 10 more employees over the next 12 months. Managing director Ryan Fraser therefore had to plan for the future, by investing in property with scope for his business to grow.
And such a positive trend in his own organisation is in fact an encouraging sign for the prosperity of the wider Yorkshire business economy, believes Ryan.
Working with offices, retail outlets, restaurants, construction firms, and other commercial entities throughout the region, Fraser Projects has seen a sharp upturn in the number of companies enquiring about the development and refurbishment of their existing properties, and the cost-effective renovation of additional sites.
Ryan explains: “The economic downturn clearly dampened business growth projections for many organisations throughout the UK, and even those that managed to keep their head above water struggled to progress, because the banks were so reluctant to lend.
“Yet now we are seeing an increasing number of firms looking to the future. Our discussions with businesses in Leeds and the surrounding areas reveal that they want to retain staff and provide an inspiring place to work. They are keen to impress visitors and customers too, and make better use of the space that they have. And some are even looking at additional space as they carefully expand.
“Whilst an investment in completely new property may remain difficult for many companies, an emerging trend is the more creative use of spend and thus the transformation of tired space that hasn’t yet been optimised.”
This movement is perhaps no surprise, even among companies with more capital to invest. Last year, commercial property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton highlighted a lack of Grade A office space in Leeds², which has prompted people to start thinking outside the box, believes Ryan.
He continues: “When you immerse yourself in the Leeds’ business environment, you can very much sense a certain vibrancy returning to the city, and indeed the wider Yorkshire region.
“Back in January, the news that the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone would receive up to £8.57m for remediation and infrastructure workᵌ, signalled the pivotal role that Leeds will play in driving national economic growth. There is a lot to be excited about, whether you are an organisation moving to new space, or a business looking to maximise the potential of your existing environment.”
Such confidence appears to be slowly brewing in the wider commercial environment too. Earlier this month, leading UK business group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) upgraded its economic growth forecasts for 2014⁴. Having previously predicted GDP growth of 2.6% this year, the CBI announced on 12 May that it believes a 3% rise is now possible. Of course current political uncertainty means that no such progress is guaranteed, but it seems that Yorkshire and resident businesses like Fraser Projects are certainly doing their utmost to play a part in it.