Cambridge Business Week 2013
In March 2013 Cambridge has its Business week, a celebration of Cambridge business and awards ceremonies for the best in class.
The week started on Monday with a business event at Granta Park, talks by David Cleevely and Vince Cable got things going. The baton was then passed to Mills and Reeve, the large regional law firm. They have just moved to a new office block on Hills Road over 6 floors with the restaurant on 6 overlooking the beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. The lunch was a showcase opportunity for them to show their guests their proud new building upon its official opening.
Ian Mather Partner and manager of the Cambridge Office spoke first and then Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business and who had just performed the plaque unveiling also spoke. It's a sign of the good work our local MP Julian Huppert is doing in Whitehall that we have many government ministers visiting Cambridge and this can only improve the growth of our city. I spoke with one of the Mills and Reeve Partners, she interestingly told me their old offices, (literally next door) had parking spaces for all of their 300 staff, their new offices has no staff parking at all !!
This is in line with what Cambridge is trying to achieve regarding its traffic issues. Another recent development of 800 student flats near the railway station also, yes you guessed it, has no car parking spaces. Both buildings have lots of cycle racks, are close to the rail station and on frequent bus routes.
It was also picked up on social media over lunch that AstraZeneca are moving a Corporate HQ to Cambridge along with 2000 jobs. This is really fantastic news for the city and local economy and they plan to be here by 2016.
This economic boost for us is however a blow to London and Cheshire from where many of the jobs are moving. There has been much speculation during the week as to
exactly where they will be located.
Over lunch I met a senior manager from Marshalls, who own Cambridge Airport, Marshall's Aerospace and many car dealerships. We got onto the subject of retailing, they employ 1800 people in the car dealership business across the UK, many of these in Cambridge. With my involvement in the Cambridge retail scene, my wife has an award winning Boutique and I Chair a retail and Tourism focussed business called Love Cambridge which is evolving into Cambridge BID from April. I'm keen to have his sector more widely promoted.
AZ come to Cambridge for the access to science, academia and to London and beyond, however the 4million tourists we receive come for the University, museums, cultural and shopping offer and it's businesses in this sector who are in the front line of improving the experience of these visitors. There's a lot of talk about hi-tech jobs in Cambridge and these are very valuable, however there's not enough talk about the retail and tourism sector that also employs thousands often on low -medium salaries. I'm keen that metrics about visitors, numbers employed, low empty shop numbers and the economic GVA of this sector is also on the lips of our business leaders and politicians alongside the number of tech jobs and billion dollar companies we have in Cambridge.
Tuesday night saw the Business Weekly awards at Queens College, here Chancellor of Cambridge University, Lord Sainsbury, handed out the awards to successful Cambridge Businesses and a full list of the winners can be seen on the Business weekly website www.businessweekly.co.uk
Wednesday over lunch it was the bankers turn to give out the prizes as Lloyds TSB hosted their Eastern Region Enterprise Awards. At this event I spoke with Lloyds Regional Director Steve Elsom and he echoed what his counterpart at RBS had told me on Monday at Mills and Reeve, that contrary to popular press the banks are lending, however applications for funding are up and down across different areas and sectors. I asked RBS ‘whether less people were applying for funding because the noise in the market was that the banks were not lending thus there was little point in engaging in the process’ He felt this was part of the reason. Of course it’s important these largely state owned banks make the right lending decisions otherwise we’ll end up back where the financial crisis started in 2008.
The Lloyds event finalists were a mix of social enterprises, film/TV production support companies, a charity giving card and a silk tie manufacturer. They had all pitched their business to the judging panel that morning and where nervously eating lunch before the winners were announced. This was a rehearsal for how Pippa my wife and I would feel on Thursday night when her Business Boudoir Femme is a finalist in the Cambridge News Business Excellence awards for Independent retailer of the year.
Thursday night, as I have just mentioned, was the Cambridge News awards in the fabulous setting of the Great Hall Kings College Cambridge. The college was founded in 1441 and the hall built in the 1820’s. Steeped in history it’s a wonderful place for a black tie dinner. John Simpson CBE was the guest speaker and awards presenter. He was very entertaining with stories of his recent return from Baghdad and many other mainly war time tales of troubled places in the world.
There were 8 award categories and Boudoir Femme was one of 4 finalists in the retailer category. Pippa had presented a few weeks earlier to the judging panel and along with the other finalists we were excited and nervous. I was sitting next to Eben Upton the founder of Raspberry Pi. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s the credit care sized mini computer costing $25 which they thought would sell 10,000 in the first year will sell closer to a million and is now assembled in Wales by Sony. A great example of a home grown UK company creating UK jobs in IT. He was a very interesting man and the story of where the business idea came from and got to where it is today is fascinating.
Boudoir Femme did not win, but congratulations to the Independent retailer winner Miller’s Music store in Cambridge, a near neighbour of ours on Sussex Street. Well done to all the other winners including Eben and Cambridge Commodities who were also on our table. A full list of winners can be seen here http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Business/Business-News/Cambridge-Business-Excellence-Awards-winners-list-20130321233000.htm
The week ended with the FAB fashion and beauty weekend http://www.love-cambridge.co.uk/FAB_friday.htm in Cambridge where over 50 businesses hosted fashion and beauty events. Now looking out my window and judging by the fact my hall is still full of winter coats and boots, spring has not sprung yet. But at Boudoir Femme we hosted 2 Spring Summer fashion shows on Saturday afternoon, models were adorned in beautiful colourful dresses and outfits, we raised money for www.cancerresearchuk.org had a great time and good turnout despite it snowing all day outside.
It was a great week for Cambridge, we celebrated new enterprises and billion pound businesses. We heard of a global corporation coming to town. We saw new buildings being opened and new fashion being launched Is this what we call the ‘Cambridge Cluster’, the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’. Would economists call this an agglomeration economy. I’m not really sure I just know that Cambridge is a great place to live and work and that the new Cambridge Business Improvement District with over 1,000 businesses in its area www.cbbid.co.uk will further improve this for all.