Season's Greetings from Wakefield first!

2014 was another busy year for business in Wakefield and we want to take this opportunity to wish you season’s greetings and to highlight some of what has been delivered this year.

In January the ‘State of the Cities’ report showed Wakefield’s economy continuing to improve!

The report highlights that Wakefield rose 12 places in our business innovation rating.  This meant the business start-up rate increasing by 10%.  This compares favourably against the 3.1% national rate.  This is something we can look forward to building on for 2015.

Wakefield also rose dramatically in terms of wage growth – having the highest rate of growth across the Leeds City Region.

The year’s first quarter also saw 307 new companies registered, a 12% increase on 2013 meaning an overall rise in net business growth.

April saw the launch of Cognitiv, the industry group established to place the spotlight firmly on Wakefield’s creative, digital and IT sector.  Cognitiv promotes the creative and digital sector in Wakefield and creates opportunities for working in partnership with eachother and providing representation nationally on industry wide issues.

2014 saw Unity Works open the transformed Unity Hall providing a fantastic new city centre venue that provides another fantastic space for events, live music and creative commerce.

In addition The Wakefield Business Support Programme has built on the success of its launch in 2013 and has continued to deliver high quality business support services to all residents and businesses within the Wakefield District.  As of 1st December the programme has created 84 jobs and assisted a total of 47 businesses, with referrals continuing to increase.

The recent partnership with Leeds Beckett University which saw the creation of the Innovation Hub in Wakefield One will help to increase the number of businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs that we can continue to support.

Work has been on-going with support for SME’s to access Trade Shows enabling them to network with potential supply chain opportunities, secure orders, grow and develop.  This year we managed to assist 12 SMEs with support and funding to attend shows ranging from advanced engineering to creative industries!  We will be continuing this support in 2015 with shows already booked in the Food & Drink and Creative Industry sectors.

The Business Support Programme also led with the support of UKTI a familiarisation mission to Berlin which was a great success for the 7 local SMEs that attended.  You will be able to read more about this including some top tips for export success in the New Year.

June saw another Successful Wakefield Business Week with an intense fiesta of business including a range of top quality speakers, business conferences, a trade exhibition and a series of tours. Sectors/ and areas covered included construction/retail/HR/manufacturing/schools’ enterprise/employment law/social enterprise/media, digital and arts.

September saw a successful Wakefield Apprentices Jobs Fair, and further events were then held in schools across the district.

Since its launch, the Apprentice Hub has been involved in 307 SME engagements and 210 apprentice starts. The hub has already exceeded its target for February 2015! It will continue to develop the promotional and marketing campaign to further boost its success.

First Friday continued to go from strength to strength with the launch of the Wakefield Bondholders First Friday on 5th December bringing a successful years events to a close.

December’s event had the highest attendance of them all with over 70 people going to Unity Works for the new breakfast based format.  The Bondholders continue to expand and attract new members and they will be keeping you up to date with a schedule of events including First Fridays in the new year.  To find out more about Wakefield Bondholders follow the link.

Speakers who helped make this year’s First Fridays some of the most engaging included, local author and broadcaster Ian Clayton, Chris Allen of Blacks LLP, Simon Nadin of Siemens, Tony Hallwood from Leeds Bradford Airport and Paralympian Gold medallist Danielle Brown MBE.

First itself worked with businesses and organisations to deliver a series of free and informative Business Byte seminars hosted by experts and aimed at local business people.  Seminars included YORtender (Wakefield Council), Business Planning (Parsons & Co), Cloud Computing (Sarcophagus), Apprenticeships (Business in the Community), Grant Funding (GH Associates) and Practical support for Grant Funding (Leeds & Partners and Outside in Management).

December saw the West Yorkshire Combined Authority announce a £1.4 billion investment across the regions transport and highways infrastructure which will help to boost economic growth and deliver major projects by 2021.

Wakefield has now taken a further step forward in 2014 and 2015 promises to be another exciting year for the district.

From all the team – enjoy the festive period and have a Happy New Year!