The Harrogate district contributed over £3.7 billion to the national economy and has the highest business start-up rate in the Leeds city region Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) found.
The area’s economy is set to grow by £330 million before 2020, creating an additional 1,500 jobs HBC’s local economy draft action plan predicts.
The draft plan, due to go to public consultation at the end of this month found that the district has a surplus of jobs, 19,500 travel into Harrogate to work while 18,600 residents work outside of the district.
Harrogate residents earn more than the Yorkshire average, taking home around £486 per week, however those working in the district tend to be paid less, £448 per week, and there are a high proportion of part-time jobs.
The high cost of housing is a problem for Harrogate companies, with businesses reporting difficulty in attracting staff.
Cabinet member for planning, Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) said that this plan will help the council work towards its economic goals.
“When people think of the council, they think as a resident and don’t think about its role in encouraging businesses and economic growth.
“We need to work with other partners in the region to help to boost economies, make sure that we aren’t competing and looking to the government for funding. For example improved rail links to Leeds will benefit people travelling into Leeds from Harrogate and the other way round.”
The Harrogate district’s strong visitor economy currently supports around 7,500 jobs.
Harrogate’s international profile has grown stronger following the Tour de France Grand Depart and the tourism industry in Harrogate is expect to grow over the next five years.
Annually 5.4million people visit the district, spending £300 million, however 4.7million of these visitors are day trippers.
Visitors to Harrogate have over 135 restaurants to choose from and there are over 15,000 bed spaces.
The council’s goal is to enhance the image of the Harrogate area ‘turning location into a commodity.’
Visit Harrogate will be allocated £50,000 for three years to promote the district and upcoming events including the Harrogate Big Bike Bash planned for the summer.
More employment land
One of the Harrogate’s priorities is to allocate land for employment and businesses in the local plan to ensure supply meets demand.
Mark Roberts, managing director of Beer Hawk which was set up in 2012 said the business struggled to find a suitable warehouse and office unit, before moving onto the Saltergate business park.
He said: “It was very difficult for us to find the right place, we started in managed offices and moved from there. It seems office space is easier to come by than warehouse space near the town centre.”
Jackie Wilson, property manager at Hornbeam Park said the business park receives a large number of enquiries from businesses.
She said: “We often see businesses grow from start-up sites to different offices for their different needs, often the start-ups grow quite quickly.”
Brian Dunsby, chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade, said he wanted to see the council do more to boost economic growth.
“At the moment the planning arm of the council are at odds with this. We need more economic land for offices and business parks, we have a system that is allowing the conversion of offices into houses, yes we need houses but we need economic land too.”
He added: “One half of the council says we need economic land, the other half says not in my back yard. Residents have a vote, businesses don’t, so councillors work in the interests of residents.”
The Harrogate International Centre (HIC) attracted 230,000 people to the district in 2013 and 2014.
The HIC generated £47 million for the area’s economy in 2013-2014 and is forecast to generate £62m in 2014-15.
The draft plan outlines the council’s hopes to achieve an occupancy rate of 200 days at the Royal Hall by 2018 and to end the HIC’s over reliance on repeat bookings.
In December it was revealed that the HIC made a loss of £1,123,582 in 2013/2014, however council leader Richard Cooper said it was a huge success, bringing millions to the economy.
Coun Harrison said: “Whether the conference centre makes a profit or a loss is separate compared to what it generates for the district.
“Just look at how many, restaurants we have, because it is not just local people eating out, or how many jobs and businesses exist because of the conference trade.”
Transport issues are a major concern for local businesses and traffic congestion has been identified as an economic constraint by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnerships LEP.
HBC plans to commission a new traffic model for the district with North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and will lobby for rail and road improvements.
Mr Dunsby said: “The traffic and slow moving at junctions affects all businesses in Harrogate. It is the first thing mentioned at every single meeting I go to. It is the main hold back for Harrogate businesses, you need to be able to move people and stock and customers around and you can’t in Harrogate.”
Mr Dunsby criticised HBC approach to traffic management, claiming it is too focused on pedestrians and cycling.
“You can’t do business on a bike! You can’t deliver goods and run a business only walking or cycling, there needs to be more focus on the road network.”
Mr Roberts admits that traffic problems can hold up Beer Hawk’s working day.
He said: “I have heard complaints about the traffic before, and Skipton Road is a nightmare. The impact on us is somewhat second hand, we get our stock ready for a certain time of day and our delivery company might get stuck in traffic so there is dead time waiting. If we did the distribution ourselves it would be a much bigger problem.”
A lack of superfast broadband could hold businesses back, especially in rural areas.
HBC says it will continue to work on the superfast North Yorkshire project and look to bring forward community schemes for the 10 per cent of premisis out of the reach of the fibre network.
NYCC’s budget for 2015/2016 includes funding to improve access to broadband. NYCC leader Coun John Weighell said: “We continue to invest in the future. So we have earmarked one-off funding of £4 million for 2015/16 and have helped to create a £31m pot for Superfast North Yorkshire to create 90 per cent superfast broadband coverage for the county.
Harrogate business owner Josh Philpott said that superfast broadband is essential to his recruitment company, CloudTech Staffing Ltd. He said: “ I have access to superfast broadband and without it I would not be able to run this business, it can be the difference between beating your competition or not.”
Alison from Galphay near Ripon set up Brodie Skincare in May 2012 , converting her spare room into a laboratory.
She used the council’s Enterprise Gateway to help her through the process of establishing a business.
In 2013-14 181 people had one-to-one business support sessions from the Enterprise Gateway and 248 people attended business workshops.
Alison said: “I had the idea for the business for quite a while and I got help from Harrogate Borough Council, it was nice to have a starting point.
“There is an awful lot more to setting up a business than you think, a lot of legalities so the help is good.”
Alison thinks so many people in the Harrogate district are keen to start their own businesses because they want to work in the area.
“For me it was about being able to live in a beautiful rural area, the choice was go to the cities to get a job, or make my own. A lot of people want to live in this beautiful area.
“Another good thing with the Enterprise Gateway was getting to meet new people, also starting businesses, when you work alone that contact is important and it helps to have people to bounce ideas off.”
Josh set up CloudTech Staffing Ltd last month after working in Leeds for three years. Not having to commute every day has given him a better work life balance and he hopes to expand and move into an office and hire staff in the next year or two.
“Harrogate has got a lot going for it, there are good transport links to Leeds and to Bradford so from a staffing point of view that opens up that market.”
He added: “There are also a lot of SMEs in Harrogate that work together.”
Mark is the managing director of Beer Hawk which set up in 2012. The business now has ten members of staff and a turn over of £1.3 million.
He used the council’s Enterprise Gateway when starting out and said: “Before I had worked for big companies so it was very daunting starting out. I was looking out for what was out there and the team at the council pointed me in the right direction for grants and lots of other things. They were helpful and gave feedback encouraging us along the way.”
Six months ago Laura moved her family from Bournemouth to Harrogate, and set up RebelRebel Photography. She said: “The welcome has been really great and I have been working with lots of other businesses. I donate five per cent of my profits to the Candlelighters which I think has made businesses more open. There are a lot of independents in Harrogate, which I love.”