1. What is the recent economic history of the area?
Leeds has emerged as the major centre for financial and professional services in the north. It has one of the fastest expanding and most diverse economies in the UK.
Around 120,000 people – more than 25% of the workforce – are employed in financial and business related services and over 30 national and international banks are based in the city.
Leeds is the most important legal centre outside the capital and a major centre for accountancy, banking, insurance, building society finance, corporate and retail financial services. The city has been transformed by massive investment in commercial property development.
In the last ten years, £4.4 billion worth of major development schemes have been completed and another £5.9 billion worth of schemes are under construction or proposed.
2. What specialist work skills does Leeds have to offer?
With two internationally recognised universities in Leeds and more people educated to degree level or higher than any other UK city, companies have access to a well qualified and trained workforce.
The University of Leeds is at the forefront of knowledge transfer and research partnerships with business, and a member of the White Rose Consortium of universities, which has a combined research power greater than Oxford and Cambridge.
Leeds Metropolitan University is home to the largest business school of its kind in the UK. It is also the lead partner for West Yorkshire New Technology Institute, providing specialist and bespoke training courses to meet the ICT needs of business.
Leeds is the biggest centre for construction and allied trades and the third largest centre for manufacturing in the UK There is a strong medical technology sector and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is the largest teaching hospital in Europe.
3. What type of industries does Leeds currently support?
First Direct, the UK’s first telephone banking service, is based in Leeds. There are 30 call centre operations in the city including Alliance and Leicester, Centrica, Direct Line Group, O2 and Capita.
In addition to financial and business services, Leeds is one of the largest centres in the UK for manufacturing. Key sub-sectors include engineering, paper manufacture, printing and publishing, chemicals, and food and drink.
Media and communications is another fast growing sector, showing 20% year on year growth over the last couple of years. Large established media organisations including BBC North, BT and Yorkshire Post Newspapers are based in Leeds, alongside major media and communications agencies such as Brilliant Media, Brass and Orange Multimedia.
4. What is the state of the services sector?
The service sector accounts for 80% of total employment in Leeds. Alongside financial and business services, major employers include the retail, distribution, tourism and leisure sectors. Leeds city centre is the main retail centre for the surrounding region, with a catchment area of over 3 million.
Over 1,000 shops in the city centre employ around people, while over 40,000 people are employed in the retail sector as a whole. The annual survey carried out by Experian Goad names Leeds as one of the UK’s top retail destinations, a position further enhanced by Trinity Leeds and the forthcoming Victoria Gate scheme.
Alongside the expansion in retail, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and hotels. Tourism is big business in Leeds, worth over £1bn per annum to the economy, attracting 1.6 million staying trips involving an overnight stay and 13.9 million day trips. This supports 19,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
5. What is the transport infrastructure like and are there any plans to improve this?
Leeds enjoys excellent links with the rest of the UK. Located at the intersection of the motorway network, the city has direct road links with London and Edinburgh via the M1 and A1, while the M62 connects Leeds to the west and east coast ports of Liverpool and Hull.
Recent improvements to the transport infrastructure include completion of the £32 million East Leeds link road, which forms an express way leading from the M1, through the Aire Valley Leeds regeneration area and into the city centre.
London is two hours away by rail, with services running to and from Kings Cross every half hour. In addition to regular daily flights to Heathrow and Amsterdam, the major European business and holiday destinations are served by direct flights from Leeds Bradford International Airport.