Tell us a bit more about this journey so far?
Xplor contacted Invest North East England direct for an initial scoping call in February 2020. They outlined their project to us and explained that they were looking at nine other locations in the UK – so we knew what the competition was, and we were confident we’d have a great chance of landing the investment!
As with other projects that come to us in this way, much of the early engagement is about building a rapport with the client whilst focussing on why the North East is a fantastic option for the company.
We sent a proposition document to the client which contained amongst other things: detailed information on the business services/tech sector in the region; details of skills availability and staff turnover rates; a benchmarking document comparing potential costs and quality issues in the North East against the other nine potential areas under consideration; and a list of potential property options in the Tyne and Wear area.
We organised a two day visit to the region for the client just before national lockdown last March where we visited seven possible office options that the client had short-listed as well as introduced the client to key partners including local authorities and recruitment agencies.
Once the client had decided on their office location, Invest Newcastle and the North of Tyne Combined Authority took a lead in the project and worked with Xplor and the property owners to put together a property and funding package that clinched the deal. Our team has remained on hand for any additional support that was required.
Why do you think Newcastle was able to complete with other leading UK cities?
Newcastle always compares very favourably with other locations in the UK on some of the business critical issues that business services companies focus on. I would summarise these key components as: great talent availability; good choice of real estate; superb connectivity with low commute times and comparatively low levels of congestion in the Newcastle metropolitan area; competitive price point; great public sector support and private sector networks.
Crucially, our labour attrition (turnover) rates are very low in the North East, particularly in comparison with London and the South East, something that is of crucial importance for a business services company whose labour costs (including training etc.) are a significant proportion of the business cost. This is why the North East is attracting significant north-shoring projects such as Xplor.
In addition to all this, the fact that companies are always blown-away by the friendliness and quality of life that they find on offer in the North East is really the icing on the cake.
This is not just an investment story; it is a collaboration story. What role did partnership working play?
Invest North East England works on strategic inward investment projects on behalf of the seven local authorities, two combined authorities and the North East LEP. To land any investment it is vitally important that all the relevant organisations which are able to contribute are brought in to help sell the region and land the deals.
The Xplor project is a great example of where many organisations from both the public and private sector, helped demonstrate all the ingredients were in place for Xplor to thrive in Newcastle. This involved focussed discussions on the property, the skills and talent, the funding support available, as well as more general discussions with key people in the North East to help answer the many questions Xplor had about the city and what it is like to do business here.
After a challenging year for people and business across the world, what do you think the future holds for 2021?
In my world of inward investment, 2020 was very difficult as many of our projects had been put on hold whilst company plans were re-assessed. We still have some way to go before relative normality returns and many things will be different – particularly in relation to what some office occupiers are going to be looking for in terms of office size, quality, location and lease arrangements.
Having said this, we are very excited about major projects we are currently involved in spanning a range of sectors from business services, offshore wind, electrification and digital technology. These involve potentially billions of pounds of investment and many thousands of new jobs. I think it’s going to be a busy year!