Leeds Business Review

By Molly Clayton

Leeds is the UK’s fastest-growing city and is the main driver of a city region with a £64.6 billion economy, a combined population of 3 million and a workforce of 1.37 million. It’s a fantastic city that we live in. Each sector is thriving; retail, science, health and leisure to just name a few. 

Our city boasts famous companies such as Asda, Jet2, GHD, Tetley, and of course, Leeds United. In recent months there have been a few setbacks due to COVID-19 however, this feature is here to celebrate all the successes our city has had, despite a few hurdles. 

The development sector has had a very successful year. Despite COVID-19, we’ve seen Leeds build upwards and outwards. No virus gets our city down! This year we have seen a spike in housing, schools, university buildings and leisure facilities. One of the biggest development projects is the new £80m Leeds School of Arts building which is currently going up in the city centre. The building will provide a home for the creative performing arts with spaces full of character that draws on the university’s heritage for diverse learning skills and opportunities. It will be student-focused, providing collaborative, informal discussion space to nurture and prompt conversations and relationships. 

The health sector has had a very healthy year, to say the least. Leeds boasts successful health businesses as well as two major hospitals and a leading university in health care, nursing and medicine. Our magazine has discussed the niche ideas and opinions within healthcare such as menopause, student nurses, plastic surgery and the expansion of private healthcare. 

Leeds City Council set out an ambition in 2016 to become ‘the best city for health and wellbeing’ by 2021. This year, we have seen multiple actions take place to help Leeds reach that target. The main priority areas that the council have invested in have been; childcare, housing, strong and connected communities, the promotion of mental and physical health and better-trained workforces such as doctors. We hope to see further growth of these investments to reach the council’s goal by next year of being one of the UK’s healthiest cities. 

Law has been a popular subject throughout our magazine too. Leeds’ legal sector is one of the fastest-growing in Britain. Last year, Yorkshire saw a 20% rise in the number of legal jobs and implementations whereas London only saw a 5% rise. Now that’s something to shout about! In the last few months, the Law sector has grown even more. Leeds has seen a rise in talent, investments and growth in the markets. Leeds law firms cover an equally diverse array of fields with healthy competition within the city in nearly every specialism which has created perfect market conditions for buyers and legal services.

Leeds is also a vibrant tech leader. The North exaggerates many technology businesses and Leeds is home to many of them. The technology sector has joined closely with the Law sector in helping to improve business by introducing AI into legal processes to help create a better experience for customers. We have also seen the hope that the same technology that powers streetlights could help the council to monitor damp in homes. 

Moving on, transport is a big one in Yorkshire. Leeds Station is the mainline railway station serving the rest of England, to Yorkshire. What would they do without us hey?! It is also the third biggest railway station outside of London and is home to over 16 platforms. The transport sector is thriving better than ever right now. There have been proposals for a fully electric, mass transit tram line in Leeds. There has been an airport expansion where £150m has been spent on a new terminal at Leeds Bradford Airport which has also been built to benefit the environment, as well as offer passengers even more destinations. Furthermore, HS2 is going to help attract even more economy and tourism to Leeds. There is set to be a £54 billion boost to West Yorkshire’s economy by 2050.

Leeds Business review spoke to Eve Roodhouse who is the Chief Economic Development officer for Leeds City Council. We asked if there are any areas we should pay special attention to in the coming months and what Leeds has up its sleeve for up and coming expansion. 

Eve Roodhouse said; “Leeds is a thriving city and I am so fortunate to be on this journey to help improve it and make it a better place for its residents. 

“Particular sectors that we are putting time and effort into are; the legal sector which is investing a lot into technology. The health sector which is invested a lot into universities and also the leisure and tourism sector where we have big plans to attract even more tourists to our city.

“One thing we are focusing a lot into at the moment is MIT REAP. REAP Team Leeds City has stakeholders from the University of Leeds, KPMG, Arup, the Nexus Innovation Center, and the Leeds Academic Health Partnership. They are excited to develop entrepreneurial ecosystems in Leeds City that will have both local and national impacts. We hope this will strengthen every sector Leeds has to offer but most importantly, the education sector”.

Over 190,000 0-17-year-olds live in Leeds. That makes Leeds the local authority with the 12th highest number of children and young people in England. West Yorkshire is home to 11 higher education institutions, eight universities and three higher education colleges. Also, 34 further education colleges means the higher education student population is around 149,000 full-time equivalent students. Furthermore, there are over 250 primary schools and 64 secondary schools. The education sector is booming. 

In 2019, Leeds City Council released a new strategy to help support the education sector. They said, “We want Leeds to be the best City for Children and Young People – a child-friendly city where children and young people are at the heart of a compassionate city with a strong and inclusive economy.

“Over the past decade, Leeds has made great progress. Through the whole city working together – families, communities, services and businesses – we have made a big difference. Social work and early help support for children and families facing the biggest challenges have improved from being ‘inadequate’ to being ‘outstanding’; Leeds has become the first UK city to begin to reduce childhood obesity, and more schools are judged good or better”. 

In coming years, the council hope to improve facilities within schools, safety within schools and attainment within schools, colleges and universities. 

The percentage of children achieving a good level of development in Foundation Stage Profile

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Leeds has been an influencer in fashion and retail for a long time. If it wasn’t for Leeds, Marks and Spencer and Burberry may not exist. This year Marks and Spencer have been at the forefront of fashion-forward movements. For example, they have been one fo the first retailers to introduce clothing for women who have vasectomies. Furthermore, this year Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and Burberry have joined forces to launch a “FutureGoals” teaching resources which will help young people learn how their maths, English and science skills are used in the creative sector. This will provide a boost for over 30,000 people and young entrepreneurs who live in the Yorkshire region. Furthermore, the universities are introducing a sustainable fashion course to help improve sustainability in the fashion industry and more and more businesses and retailers seem to be flocking to our city, the fashion capital of the North. 

Overall, Leeds has had a fantastic year so far, and plans are underway to make it an even better year. Businesses are getting stronger and our city is becoming more of a place of interest on the map. Keep investing, keep enjoying and keep growing because this city’s business, is something to be proud of. 

About the Author

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This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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