After confirming the identity of Jade Business Park’s first tenants, Business Durham leaders are now looking forward to welcoming other businesses to the ambitious new £14m site near Seaham.

Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, is playing a major part in bringing continued inward investment to the region with multi-million pound developments like Jade Business Park and others in the pipeline.

With a wealth of business support and funding initiatives County Durham is firmly positioning itself as the place to invest, start and grow a business.

Jade’s first tenants Sumitomo Electric Wirings Systems Europe, a division of global Japanese Fortune 500 corporation Sumitomo Electric Group, are one of the top tier of suppliers to the Nissan plant in Sunderland.

They will move from their current Houghton-le-Spring distribution centre to the 55-acre employment site in April 2020, in a major vote of confidence for the site.

Sumitomo produces and distributes automotive wiring harnesses, fuse boxes, connectors and cables, with a turnover in excess of €700m and over 20,000 employees in Europe.

The Japanese giant’s expansion to the new Jade Business Park and seven-year lease agreement, will be part of the Durham County Council-owned site’s first development phase.

Business Durham is in partnership with Highbridge Developments, the company behind a similar and successful scheme at Cobalt, North Tyneside, the largest office park in the UK.

Peter McDowell, who manages 600,000 square feet of business premises as property and business services director at Business Durham, said: “Getting Sumitomo on board is massive boost for the project. It also means a third of the site was signed over immediately and you cannot look past the prestige of having a high-profile business like this for the first lease.

“Jade is the ideal location for distribution, technology and advanced manufacturing businesses like Sumitomo, just a minute from the A19, giving excellent access to Tees Valley, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle with multi-model transport access to the rest of the UK and beyond.

“In the past the private sector has helped to build projects like this but on this occasion we are doing it ourselves to stimulate activity and growth. This is a very promising start for us, we are looking forward to building on Sumitomo’s arrival and welcoming more tenants in the near future.”

Work has started on the seven new industrial units at Jade Park, which is the equivalent to 155,000 sq ft of new space and ideal for distribution, technology and advanced manufacturing businesses looking to expand or relocate.

The creation of the business park within minutes of an approved, improved and widened A19 junction, is another opportunity for Business Durham to encourage several of the county’s thriving start-ups and established businesses alike to consider growth in the area.

In addition to providing the right infrastructure, to help businesses to succeed, the team at Business Durham provide a wealth of support to help companies find new opportunities, access finance and overcome barriers to growth.

The Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) is a business support initiative, funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Business Durham.

A dedicated team of three business engagement and project monitoring officers are tasked with facilitating business growth by linking companies with tangible opportunities, like a new contract, finding new premises, a new supplier or perhaps some investment.

The programme also includes a number of sector-specific areas of business support aimed at making the most of potential growth opportunities in sectors identified as experiencing or reporting high growth. One of those sector-specific support programmes focused on the childcare industry.

In fact the first DBOP strand was childcare, delivering help to 48 businesses with workshops and one-on-one support sessions, delivered by industry experts. It also ensured they took advantage of the opportunity of the government initiative introduced in September 2017 offering up to 30 hours free childcare for children aged three to four years old.

As a lasting legacy of the programme’s success, Durham County Council Early Years team included business training in their annual training directory which has enabled nurseries to upskill their workforce and provide support to help them become more resilient and profitable.

Nursery owner Laura Leigh Davies set up Child’s Play Private Nursery at the Ferryhill Sport and Education Centre after she was made redundant as a childcare practitioner six years ago.

Thanks to support from Business Durham’s DBOP team, she has now expanded Child’s Play to open new branches in Seaham and Chester-le-Street, employing 53 staff and looking after more than 350 children.

As her business has developed, Laura has used the full range of services provided.

Laura said: “I was introduced to Business Durham through my Prince’s Trust mentor. Since day one they have been on hand to provide me with expert mentoring, delivering the support needed at every stage of my journey so far, from advising me of potential funding sources to connecting other support organisations to help my business to grow.

“My management team has benefited from the Red Kite Training provided by DBOP. It’s upskilled my workforce enabling them to take a more proactive role in the running of the business which has benefited our children and the successful delivery of the business.”

Business Durham operations director Sarah Slaven said: “Many people who start businesses in the sector don’t connect with the support network. They see themselves as professional childcare providers who love their jobs and not necessarily as businesses.

“When the government introduced the increased childcare entitlement, we helped the businesses prepare for it. The change led to an increase in demand so the DBOP team sourced training from early years training providers Red Kite Innovations to offer intensive support for the sector to help them take advantage of the opportunity.

“Childcare providers really excel at looking after children, though some need a little extra support. The DBOP team are on hand to provide that robust business model, delivering ongoing support and guidance during each exciting step of their journey.

“Many in the county, like Laura, have now grown, taken over nurseries, taken on extra staff and acquired new premises.”

Sarah concluded: “We offer the right environment to stimulate sustainable economic growth. Business Durham has an experienced and talented team that is committed to providing the right mix of infrastructure, business support and access to finance to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives in County Durham.”

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