North East leaders' plan to poach companies from London with attractive office locations to help boost economic recovery from covid

Companies based in London and the South East could be enticed to shift their operations to the North East in a bid to kickstart the region’s post-pandemic recovery.

The Glassworks building planned for South Shields' riverside is one development which could encourage companies to shift their London offices to the North East.
The Glassworks building planned for South Shields' riverside is one development which could encourage companies to shift their London offices to the North East.

The rise of home working during successive lockdowns has rapidly changed the expectations on workers and the need for office space.

And business leaders have hinted they could try to take advantage of the trend in the coming months and years with the offer of significant savings in exchange for relocating.

“In the last year, inward investment inquiries have fallen off a cliff, but there was a spike towards the end of last year (2020),” said Guy Curry, director at Invest North East England.

The vision for Riverside Sunderland aims to attract people to the city centre as an attractive place to live, work and spend their leisure time.

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“Obviously covid has affected the way people are working in offices and we’ve had a lot of discussions with companies about their plans and how it will affect their requirements for office accommodation.

“We’re just about to engage in a scheme of ‘north-shoring’ and I think this is a real sweet spot for the North East, where we can attract office users from London and the South East, where traditionally they’ve had very high turnover rates of labour.

“We can attract them to the North East with a much more stable workforce and there are some fantastic opportunities in terms of business space and cost basis, which is very attractive.”

Curry was speaking at a meeting of the North East Combined Authority’s (NECA) Economic Development Digital Advisory Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

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NECA’s council have all made plans for major office investments in recent years, including the redevelopment of the Durham County Hall site, in Aykley Heads; the South Shields 365 project and Sunderland’s overhaul of the former Vaux Brewery.

And while Curry accepted this may present ‘a bit of a risk’, he was also confident the post-pandemic economy would usher in ‘healthy demand’.

He also hinted at a firm’s possible relocation from the South to the North East which could bring more than 1,000 jobs.

He added: “A lot of companies, particularly tech companies, are changing their business models in response to covid.

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“They’re now looking to keep their office floorplates as they are, but they’re starting to recruit from right across the country.”

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