“There is plenty going on right now in Birmingham!” – NovaLoca interview United Business Centres
United Business Centres operates two Birmingham Serviced Offices. They’re located on Birmingham Business Park near Solihull and on Church Street in the Colmore Row Business District in Birmingham City Centre. Continuing on from our focus on Birmingham over the past month, we interviewed United Business Centres so see what business has been like for them in 2016!
What has business been like for United Business Centres so far in 2016?
We’ve seen a strong and steady demand for flexible space in Birmingham and the surrounding area so far this year!
What are people looking for in your area?
Generally our clients are looking for a comfortable office environment surrounded by enthusiastic people who are eager to help. In addition, we find that a convenient location with access to local amenities tops the requirement list, along with a positive and well-equipped office environment. In our experience this type of professional business environment is key to recruiting and retaining staff, and forward-thinking businesses definitely recognise the importance of this in today’s competitive business landscape.
In Birmingham City Centre, we find that proximity to the main business districts is an important pull factor for clients, especially the professional services sectors. Naturally, clients look for good public transport which is well covered in the Colmore district, along with all the benefits that a thriving city centre has to offer. In the case of Birmingham Business Park we tend to appeal to businesses who travel frequently. We have close proximity to the M42/M6 motorway network, Birmingham International Train Station and Birmingham Airport itself. In all cases, good connectivity is a must these days.
Are there any particular challenges you face when doing business in your area?
In the early days of operating business centres, the concept wasn’t well-known so we had to educate potential clients on the benefits of flexible workspace. Today however it’s a different story, as businesses of all sizes are utilising flexible office space as part of a structured growth strategy. Of course this means the serviced and flexible office space market is growing, both with new market entrants and expanding operators. In some areas, particularly the city centre, there is high competition and more choice for clients. However we are confident in the quality of our business centres and the high standard of services we provide, and our good levels of demand and occupancy to date show us that we’re meeting our clients’ requirements and expectations.
Are there any projects or developments that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
There is plenty going on right now in Birmingham, to be expected for the UK’s Second City! Major refurbishments have recently been carried out in various parts of the city including The Mailbox, the Library and New Street Station. Other large-scale projects include Paradise Circus, Arena Central, and a huge master plan for the Snow Hill district – including reconfiguration of Snow Hill Station, which is just minutes from our Birmingham Church Street offices.
Of course it’s a long project but we must mention HS2, as Phase 1 will connect Birmingham to London in just 45 minutes! Plans include the possibility of redeveloping the old Curzon Station in 2017 as part of HS2, with the eventual completion of Phase 1 (Birmingham to London line) by 2026. There’s also the expansion of Birmingham International Airport and many other projects such as the new Resorts World. So there is certainly plenty of healthy development and investment activity in and around the city.
Are there any particular types of occupiers and businesses that are being attracted to Birmingham as a business destination?
Quite a number of European based businesses are choosing Birmingham as their UK head office base. Given the phenomenal rate of new startups and the fantastic amount of support now available for entrepreneurs in this country, we’ve also seen an influx of new and smaller businesses taking their first step from home into an office. This is made possible by various stages of flexible office plans including virtual offices, shared co-working spaces and serviced offices.
What are the benefits for businesses who are considering relocating to Birmingham?
It’s in the Midlands, so the geography is perfect. Birmingham is a central location for all of the UK, offering accessibility to London and the South East as well as the North of England. The UK’s Northern Powerhouse initiative is delivering high levels of inward investment and development in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, so access to these areas is becoming increasingly important for business owners right across the UK.
Plus, Birmingham businesses are in very good company! Birmingham is home to world-class corporate headquarters, has a thriving entrepreneurial community, the largest professional services cluster outside of London and one of the youngest populations in Europe, making it an ideal place to start and grow a business.
What is the best thing about running a business in Birmingham?
There’s so much going on here. Projects like New Street Station, Grand Central and John Lewis, the new Mailbox, Library of Birmingham, and the Paradise redevelopment. The region is going through an unprecedented period of transformation. With record levels of infrastructure investment, increasing international recognition and countless opportunities for companies to thrive in the region, there has never been a better time to live and work in Birmingham.
Tara Tomes, a UBC client at 65 Church Street and Deputy Chair of Birmingham Future recently commented: “One of the big benefits of setting up a business here, in comparison to London, is that it’s a much smaller landscape in terms of networking. So you have the opportunity as an SME to sit in the same room as partners and directors at the ‘big name’ firms.”
What do you hope that the rest of 2016 will bring for United Business Centres?
We officially launched Birmingham Business Park in January 2016 and so far we’ve seen plenty of interest and positive take-up levels. Given the size of the building, we have the potential to accommodate large businesses and corporate teams and this is certainly an opportunity we want to explore further. Positively we are seeing more interest from corporates in 2016, particularly as the benefits of flexible workspace are becoming more widely known. So we are proactively working to connect with large businesses as part of our corporate offering, which provides managed office space under flexible, mid-term arrangements.
We are actively seeking new opportunities to acquire new buildings in key parts of the UK, and we are also strengthening our business service offering to clients. For instance, we recently launched a new, free business advice service in partnership with Mi Ventures, which allows UBC clients to connect with an experienced business mentor and seek advice through a live chat system. Furthermore we have just announced an extension to our virtual office service, whereby all UBC clients can utilise one other UBC business address for just £5 per month and use it to receive mail as well as promote it on their marketing material. From ground level services to brand new buildings, there is always potential for more and there is no shortage of new opportunities!