Posted on 13 May 2002
For the past ten years, D&B (formerly Dun and Bradstreet) has carried out an annual Key British Enterprises survey to find the location with the highest percentage of profit-making businesses. Sharing joint first place in the 2002 survey, with 85% of their top businesses in profit, are York and Brighton.
York is well known as a tourist magnet. It attracts over four million visitors a year, drawn to its unique bland of Roman, Viking and Medieval remains. York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.
But the traditional image is changing. The last few years have seen an influx of smart new wine-bars and executive flats. While some may use York as a base from which to commute (London is just 1 hour 40 minutes by train: Leeds 25 minutes), York is now becoming a significant economic entity in its own right.
It is an important financial centre, with the Headquarters of Norwich Union Life and CPP Card Protection Plan. But the real growth phenomenon has been "Science City York", an economic development programme designed to foster knowledge-based industries. At the last count, some 9000 people were employed in around 240 biotechnology, IT and heritage technology companies. This is comparable with the numbers employed in tourism.
Sustaining this growth is the University of York, which also ranks highly in independent league tables – joint first with Cambridge for teaching quality, and in the top half dozen for research strength. The University has a strong track record of working with industry. "The University contributes to the York economy in many ways, especially through research undertaken for industry worldwide, such as Unilever and Rolls Royce," said Hilary Layton. "Many of the technologies we develop lead to our own spin-off companies. We can use this expertise to act as a magnet to high technology companies looking to relocate, and both types of company benefit from close proximity to specialist knowledge and facilities."
Commenting on the D&B survey, Cllr Rod Hills, who is Chairman of York Inward Investment Board as well as Leader of the City of York Council, said: "Some may raise an eyebrow seeing York in first place for business profitability, but we have known this for years. York works on all levels – for visitors, residents, and businesses. Our policies have been designed to foster sustainable economic growth, without destroying those very qualities which make York such an attractive location in the first place."
Keith Crane, speaking on behalf of the Regional Development Agency, Yorkshire Forward, drew attention to the fact that this was the second successive year in which one of the Region's locations had topped the D&B survey. "This vindicates all we have been saying about Yorkshire as a base for business," he said. "This part of the world is not just beautiful scenery and historic sites – people are making serious money in a very business-friendly environment."