Barnsley is now in the nation’s top 20 locations for attracting overseas business cash – attracting more foreign direct investment than anywhere else in the Yorkshire and Humber region, it has emerged.
That success has contributed to the town being left at a nine year low for available land for firms wanting to move into the area, with 740,000 square feet available and the council is now pumping an additional £3.75m which should create another 250,000 square feet of space in commercial properties around the borough.
Figures for inward investment have been calculated nationally by specialist company Ernst and Young and reflect the council’s own experience, in dealing with numbers of inquiries from potential investors which have now reached their highest level for a decade.
The council is working towards the objective of creating around 29,000 new jobs by 2033 and a report to the council’s ruling Cabinet states that investment in infrastructure, the roads and other facilities which make Barnsley sites appear attractive to businesses looking for a new location, remains “crucial”.
It states: “Significant progress has been made over the last 12 months with the delivery of highways infrastructure improvements at Junction 36 (off the M1) and the focus now switches to working with developers to bring forward employment and housing opportunities within the area.
“It is also critical that the council continues to drive forward enabling infrastructure works which will unlock strategic business park and wider growth at Junction 37 and Goldthorpe.”
Figures for companies investing in Barnsley show progress stalled in 2015 when numbers of private sector jobs fell by 2.6 per cent, with figures turning around since then.
Council officials believe the authority is on track to meet its target of attracting 140 new businesses in the current financial year.
The latest figure shows 100 have been established, though the council is also dealing with 577 clients who are “currently being engaged and confidence remains high that the target will be achieved by the end of the year.
Growth in business, at a time when public sector employment has been shrinking, has helped employment levels increase in the town by 1.1 per cent in the last year, a figure in line with both regional and national averages.
However, councillors have been warned “there is a clear case for the continued delivery of economic interventions in terms of accelerating employment within the borough in order to achieve our aspiration to deliver approximately 28,840 more total jobs.”
Numbers of individuals starting their own businesses in Barnsley also totalled more than 1,000 last year, doubling the regional and national average figures.
Around a quarter of those got help from the council, through its Barnsley Launchpad initiative.
The council is now looking to secure the funding needed to keep that programme going for three more years.