A delegation of business and civic leaders will be in London this week armed with the message: “There’s never been a better time to invest in Bradford.”
Influential business leaders, including Dalton Phillips, the chief executive of Morrisons supermarkets, and Peter Miller, Westfield’s chief operating officer, will tell bosses of other national companies how they can benefit from Bradford’s City Centre Growth Zone which is planned to create 2,800 jobs within the next five years.
They will be joined at the presentation on Thursday by Bradford Council chief executive Tony Reeves and Council leader David Green with the aim of wooing major investors to the city.
The City Centre Growth Zone is being funded through a combination of £17.6 million from the Government's Regional Growth Fund and £17.2m from Bradford Council.
The zone will stimulate investment and private sector growth in the city centre through a range of incentives for new or existing businesses, including rate rebates for eligible businesses which create new jobs and access to superfast broadband.
Resources are also being ploughed into creating a skills programme to enable local people to benefit from new job opportunities.
Coun Green said: “By going to London we are getting our message out far and wide to people to come and invest in Bradford.
“We want to attract new businesses into Bradford and to support the expansion of existing ones with a view to taking up empty retail spaces and office space to develop a really unique city centre in terms of independent shops.
“We want people to take the offer of having more than retail space and taking upper floors for workshops and production, like having people working over the shop like they did 150 years ago.”
Mr Miller said that with the growing momentum behind his company’s Broadway development there had never been a better time for retailers to invest or open in Bradford.
He said it was an untapped chance for retailers with the potential to attract up to £1 billion of spending by shoppers in the city once the Broadway shopping centre had been built.
He said: “There are more than 6.2 million people within one hour’s drive of Bradford and it is the fourth largest metropolitian district in England.
“Public investment in the last two years has totalled more than £30m and this has been complimented by private sector investment of more than £65m. It is anticipated this will be enhanced by a further £260m investment through the Broadway scheme expected to start next year.”
News of the presentation comes as the British Retail Consortium yesterday reported that more than one in ten shops are empty across the country, with Yorkshire having about 15 per cent of retail premises lying empty.
In Bradford the empty shops rate is 17.15 per cent, but that has improved from a figure of 18.64 per cent last year.
Stephen Wright, president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said empty shop syndrome was something that was affecting the whole country, not just Bradford.
“The city needs a thriving heart, and that means a combination of shoppers and other visitors so that there is a hustle-and-bustle of activity,” he said.
“City Park is helping to attract visitors but we also need to see as many of the empty units as possible filled again. We support the promotion of the City Centre Growth Zone in London but I know that existing city centre shops fear they could be over-shadowed by the aims and methods of the Growth Zone.”
Bradford Chamber of Trade secretary, Val Summerscales, said: “The growth fund is intended to support those relocating to the city centre and that is positive, but internet shopping and out-of-town centres have all had an adverse effect on town centres.”
Coun Green said the Council was well aware of the importance of working with the private sector to stimulate sustainable city centre growth.
“In Bradford we have recognised that the only way of addressing our local challenges is to work with the private sector to develop strategies to bring properties back into use,” he said.
“This is the basis behind the growth zone proposals but also one of the major reasons why the Council is bringing more of its staff into the city centre to increase footfall.
“I am aware that people want urgent action but we need to ensure that any growth is sustainable so that we are not continually firefighting to deal with short term solutions that fail to last.
“Investors need to know that the Council is committed to a long-term strategy that can support business growth and innovation and we are beginning to win that trust after years of neglect.”