September 3, 2020
When Japanese Fortune 500 company Sumitomo announced it was moving into the first of several industrial units at Jade Business Park in July, it was a vote of confidence – not just for the new business location but for County Durham as a whole.
At a time when many businesses are struggling to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Durham County Council’s economic development arm, Business Durham, is pressing ahead with plans to transform the area and support recovery.
Business Durham manages a number of key business locations across the county, each of which has experienced COVID-19 in different ways.
The North East Technology Park (NETPark), for example, has had an incredibly busy 2020, owing to the fact that many of the businesses based there work in life sciences and technology – two sectors at the forefront of finding solutions to the public health crisis.
Sarah Slaven, managing director of Business Durham, reflects: “A lot of the businesses located at NETPark didn’t stop at all because of the nature of what they do.
“Some companies were responding to the Government’s call for the production of ventilators and hand sanitisers, while others are involved in research and development projects relating to vaccines, testing and treatments.”
While working to serve the growing demands of the busy business cluster at NETPark, Business Durham has also been supporting those businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic.
“Some businesses have now accessed all of the support available, whether it be furloughing staff or getting the various grants that are available and still need support to get back on track,” Sarah explains.
As the reopening of the economy continues, Sarah hopes that recovery can get underway for these businesses as well.
Positively, one of County Durham’s most important regeneration projects, Jade Business Park, has continued to make progress in recent months. Built on a former colliery and cokeworks, it is set to provide more than 1 million sq ft of new employment space and over 2500 jobs.
It is owned by Durham County Council, managed by Business Durham and delivered in partnership with Highbridge Developments and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.
Phase one of Jade Business Park reached practical completion on August 14 and provides 155,000 sq ft of industrial space for businesses working in distribution, technology and advanced manufacturing.
The contractor appointed for the site, Bowmer and Kirkland, worked through the lockdown to ensure that construction work moved forward on schedule and in time for Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems Europe (SEWS-E) to move in.
“Given everything that’s been going on, I think they’ve done a great job,” adds Sarah.
Interest in Jade Business Park has also been very strong, with a number of viewings booked in and contract terms already out on three of the seven industrial units, which range from 11,109 sq ft to 55,000 sq ft.
It’s easy to see why Jade is attracting such interest, even in the most testing of circumstances.
Located just off the A19 trunk road, the park is ideal for logistics businesses looking for easy access to the UK’s transport network and for those looking to maximise opportunities in the North East’s thriving advanced manufacturing cluster.
Brand new industrial units are also in short supply across the region, particularly those that can be purpose-designed to suit specific business needs.
One of the biggest draws to Jade though, is that it has secured Enterprise Zone status. This means that new occupiers taking space there can get five years free business rates up to £275,000.
Enterprise Zones have been used by the Government to help local economies recover ever since deindustrialisation and the closure of coal mines and shipyards in the 1980s.
Their regenerating powers will be needed for just that purpose today.
Sarah says: “The real benefit in terms of attracting businesses is that you get a five-year period where you don’t have to pay any business rates.
“That’s a key cost-saving if you’re a manufacturing business or you need a reasonably big unit to operate.”
Quite apart from these benefits is the fact that demand in the part of the commercial real estate market that Jade Business Park exists in is unlikely to be negatively affected by the pandemic.
Advanced manufacturing is something that can’t be done from home and therefore, businesses will continue to need high-quality industrial premises to be able to make their products.
When taken together, it looks like the future is bright for Jade Business Park, a site that will hopefully drive regeneration and investment in County Durham for many years to come.
Sarah concludes: “Of course there’s going to be some hard times ahead but it’s our job to keep sight of where we’re going and make sure we’ve got the support to help those that are struggling but also those that are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities.”