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High employment and low house prices helps make Manchester biggest business base outside South East

By Henry Vaughan

Manchester now has the largest business base and the highest number of employed people outside of London, according to a recent report.

The quarterly edition of New Economy’s Manchester Monitor compares the area with other regions in the UK to confirm the largest economy outside of the South East, with 90,000 businesses and 1,184,668 employees.

Manchester Airport continues to enjoy success with passenger numbers rising 2.5 per cent to 2.18 million in August, and the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) hope to build on successes through the Airport City development.

John Atkins, MAG’s airport city director, believes Manchester Airport connects almost 20 million passengers annually to more than 200 global destinations, with this connectivity enabling the region to attract world-leading organisations.

Mr Atkins said: “Our £650 million Airport City development project aims to build on these successes, transforming Manchester Airport into an international business destination in its own right, to attract global companies that require access to a major British city and to the global marketplace.

“The first development of its kind in the UK, Manchester’s Airport City will compete with similar schemes at Barcelona, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and as the designated Enterprise Zone for Greater Manchester, is expected to create up to 20,000 new jobs across the Enterprise Zone over the next 15 years.”

The Spinningfields development, which now houses almost 120 commercial organisations and more than 18,000 workers, is also credited with giving a major boost to the local economy.

Michael Ingall, chief executive of Allied London, believes that Spinningfield’s location and options is attracting interest from companies across the UK.

“People come here to work, eat, drink, shop and socialise and as our footfall has grown, so has the level of enquiries from businesses wanting to relocate here,” said Mr Ingall.

“Spinningfields hasn’t just attracted local businesses to the estate – we’ve been responsible for bringing new businesses in to the city centre.”

He added: “The estate is continually evolving, with new buildings, events and business opportunities and we plan to continue to develop Spinningfields while the demand is there for us to do so.”

However, economic fortunes are mixed as the construction sector continues to suffer.

The total value of new orders obtained by contractors was £746.8 million between January and June 2012, down £171.9 million from the same period in 2011, and £259.1 less than the second half of the previous year.

House prices have steadily declined with Greater Manchester now offering the cheapest housing in the country – an average cost of £104,357 in August 2012.

Unemployment figures are also worrying, with a 4.6% increase in jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants rising to 85,038 in total over Greater Manchester.

Baron Frankal, director of economic strategy at New Economy, said: “It’s certainly not all doom and gloom as the low house prices and density of businesses across Greater Manchester will be a draw for talented people who are looking for affordable homes.”

He added: “Therefore the large scale projects and developments must be encouraged to continue, if more people are to able to find work in the region.

“We’ve already seen this with the success of areas such as Spinningfields in the city centre, and soon we hope to see it again with the development around the Co-operative Group’s new headquarters, NOMA, and the realisation of Airport City.

“If this scale of investment and vision continues across the region, Greater Manchester will continue to be a force to be reckoned with and will be able to hold strong its title of ‘the largest economy outside of the South East.”

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