Quality space for enterprising firms
Young enterprise is inspiring a new trend in Leicester city centre office occupation, with a high number of business start-ups at council workspaces.
Some 45 fledgling businesses have either moved in or begun trading from council-run workspaces at Leicester Creative Business (LCB) Depot in Rutland Street and Phoenix Square in the last year.
Figures throughout the city are up on last year, reflecting growing demand from young entrepreneurs keen to get their own business off the ground, despite economic uncertainty.
LCB Depot is almost full. Space at the new Phoenix Square is 60 per cent occupied – ahead of target since launch – and the Leicester Business Centre in Belgrave is at 90 per cent capacity.
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Leicester City Council has been running a successful business start-up programme called the Creative Enterprise Hub this year, boosting support for new enterprise.
Demand for space is such that the council has invested in the refurbishment of a former textile factory in Rutland Street, close to LCB Depot and Phoenix Square, which is set to provide 11 further workspaces for design occupations on completion next year.
Leicester Assistant City Mayor Ted Cassidy said the local scene reflected a really strong picture, particularly within the creative business sector.
He said: "Demand for start-up space is a sign of a young city and there is huge interest from people wanting to start a business during the economic downturn.
"We have three excellent universities on the doorstep with young graduates emerging with lots of ideas, who are keen to establish their own businesses and we want to provide a launch-pad.
"In the developing Cultural Quarter of the city centre it is particularly important we provide start-up space in this growth sector."
In addition, Councillor Cassidy said Leicester City Council was keen to encourage more hi-tech start-ups. The council has agreed to the purchase of land next to the National Space Centre in Belgrave to create 22,000 sq ft of unique workspace, with 57 units for hi-tech knowledge economy businesses. The development is scheduled to open in 2013.
Some £7.3m of European funding was recently secured for business support, including new workspace schemes, for which Coun Cassidy said there had been a number of expressions of interest.
With recent concern over the lack of larger firms occupying city centre office accommodation he said the council was examining how it could work with private enterprise to bring further businesses into Leicester.
He said: "We want to provide more high quality office accommodation and remove barriers to development, tackling unemployment and seeing new businesses come forward, with space filled and the economy growing."