Major developments, inward investment and business growth; Creative Sheffield reports on the big economic drivers of 2016
It has been a year of great change, both nationally and closer to home. At a time when the EU referendum result has signalled a new direction for the UK, Sheffield has been forging ahead with its plans to accelerate the economy of the country’s fourth largest city.
Follow the city’s narrative in 2016 and you’ll see Sheffield as a city of makers, a capital of beer, a hub for outdoor adventurers, a grower of enterprise and a magnet for tech, digital and advance manufacturing businesses.
Creative Sheffield, the economic development arm of Sheffield City Council, looks back at positive economic developments in 2016 and ahead at what to watch out for in 2017.
Business Sheffield (Creative Sheffield’s business-facing support service) works with firms in the city to start up and grow; creating jobs and feeding Sheffield’s economy. In 2016, the service received 4,000 clients through its Gateway, delivered 3,000 hours of face-to-face contact with existing business clients and provided 1,300 hours of pre-start-up support. The council team have helped 400 early stage start-ups this year alone and worked with entrepreneurs to set up 100 new enterprises in the city.
Across the city, the most significant impact on Sheffield’s long-term economy this year was the Chinese investment deal, which saw the Sichuan Guodong Group announce a 60-year partnership with Sheffield City Council. This historic agreement, the first tranche of which is worth around £220m ($300m), is the biggest deal with a Chinese investment partner of any UK city outside London. It has the potential to create thousands of new jobs for the people of Sheffield.
The development of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) development is making waves regionally and nationally, with a growing reputation as the industrial spine of Sheffield City Region (SCR) and a critical economic driver for the north.
In March this year, the Olympic Legacy Park received outline planning approval for its cutting-edge masterplan, which will see around 3,000 people work, learn and improve their fitness at the multi-million pound, 35-acre site at Attercliffe. Visible progress has already been made, with development of the Oasis Academy, Sheffield’s second University Technical College and the Indoor Arena.
A campaign led by Sheffield’s business community has also resulted in positive developments in plans for HS2, with the city centre’s Midland station now being the proposed location, backed by HS2’s executive chairman David Higgins. Sheffield Midland is also the proposed location for enhanced services to Leeds and Manchester under the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, helping to ensure the rail plans accelerate the economic growth of the SCR.
There has been a healthy dose of other investment in the city this year too. HSBC were announced as the anchor tenant for the first phase of the Sheffield Retail Quarter, with the multi-million pound deal comprising a 15-year lease for 140,000 sq ft of office space, including a rooftop terrace. The next phase of tenant announcements in 2017 is eagerly anticipated.
Elsewhere, the 3 St Paul’s Place development has enhanced the city centre’s dynamic business offer even further and has inspired businesses such as Handelsbanken to relocate. And Grey to Green – a regeneration scheme that has breathed new life into the city’s former inner ring road by creating a series of sustainable meadows and public art in Sheffield’s Riverside Business District – picked up no fewer than five awards in 2016.
Several other businesses have recognised Sheffield’s skilled and competitive work force, and its regeneration and development opportunities, by investing in, relocating to or opening new offices in the city. Among others, this includes Egress Software Technologies, Rank Group PLC, Davy Markham Ltd, Zoo Digital, Schubert Technical Services Ltd and GDA Creative.
In the retail sector, The Moor’s redevelopment is well underway and has brought with it a year-on-year increase in footfall for both The Moor Market (5%) and The Moor (5.4%). Quality traders, a series of successful events and the huge new Primark store have helped to draw more visitors to this area. The upward trend is set to continue with the opening of The Light Cinema next year.
Looking towards local employment, the 2016 Tech City UK report named Sheffield and Rotherham as one of 27 digital tech clusters in the UK, stating 14,313 digital tech jobs in the region and a boost of £273m GVA into the local economy. In total, Sheffield’s GVA increased by 2.4% this year to £11.3bn.
According to reports from the Office of National Statistics, Sheffield retained its reputation for the third-highest employment rate among English core cities. After a 12% increase in managerial, director and senior official occupations, there are now 20,800 people employed in the highest level occupations. The latest figures also show significant growth in the professional, scientific and technical sectors (an extra 3,200 jobs) and the arts, entertainment and recreations sector (an extra 1,200 jobs).
The RISE initiative, which helps SMEs grow by matching and placing talented graduates with local businesses, has helped 81 university leavers gain meaningful employment so far this financial year. The project’s success has led to national recognition and even a positive reference in the government’s autumn statement.
Meanwhile, The Outdoor City has grown in stature. As well as the announcement in December that the Council is now looking for investors for Parkwood Springs (the former ski village) the initiative has also invested £100k into run routes across the city, introduced the Sheffield 10k, launched the city’s first dual slalom mountain bike track at Parkwood Springs, hosted the 10th anniversary of Cliffhanger Festival (including the British Bouldering Championships) and encouraged greater collaboration with outdoor businesses.
When it comes to business conferences and events, Sheffield has had an outstanding year. The annual entrepreneurial festival MADE, which moved to a new home at the Crucible Theatre, was a resounding success in November. The Crucible also played host to the 10th edition of OFFSET, the conference that brings together the world’s most exciting designers and creative minds. And Sheffield Doc/Fest attracted 32,700 delegates from over 60 countries for its 24th year in the city.
Independent research has valued the business tourism sector in Sheffield at an impressive £106.5m. The Conference Ambassador Programme will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2017, on the back of bids from ambassadors topping the £20m mark this year.
According to the combined Great Britain Tourism Survey (GBTS) and Day Visitor Survey, commissioned by Visit Britain, tourism is now worth £555m to the local economy, with Sheffield attracting an average of 14.3m visitors a year. As Sheffield’s reputation as a visitor destination grows, it has been shortlisted for the Luxury Travel Guide Awards 2017. One venue that has especially contributed to the city’s ever-growing tourist offer this year is Sheffield’s oldest museum, Weston Park, which is now enjoying a new lease of life after a complete refurbishment.
And soon, both visitors and locals will have even more ways to discover the wonders of Sheffield, with the publication of the ‘111 Things You Should Not Miss… in Sheffield’ guidebook, which has been commissioned by commercial publisher EMONS. Sheffield is only the second destination in England to be the focus of this European series of destination guides.
Councillor Leigh Bramall, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business and Economy at Sheffield City Council, echoes this positive message: “Looking back on 2016, it is clear to see that Sheffield’s world-class offer is attracting businesses growth and city-wide investment. The Chinese investment deal, the progress of AMID, the works commencing to the Sheffield Retail Quarter and OLP and the proposed central location of the HS2 station are huge achievements for the city and wider region and will make a big difference to the people who choose to live, work and study here in the coming years. The future is certainly looking bright for Sheffield.”