In recent decades business and industrial parks have been somewhat overlooked as regeneration strategies and funding have focused on the revival of towns and city centres. Yet business and industrial parks have been the powerhouses of regional economic success and retain the capacity to become drivers of a new phase of economic growth.
'Remaking Competitive Places for 21st Century Businesses' (RCP21) was a two year (2009-11) project designed to stimulate a new era of growth on the region's business and industrial parks by transferring good practice, growing capacity and sharing know-how with local authorities and other stakeholders, to help them maximise the economic benefits and added value of their business and industrial parks.
Led by first - the Wakefield District Development Agency on behalf of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership (RIEP), RCP21 builds on the success of first in reviving the Langthwaite Business Park in South Kirkby, Wakefield, as well as the agency's major European Union (EU) initiative: Managing the Industrial Territories in the Knowledge Era (MITKE).*
The revitalisation of Langthwaite Business Park was achieved by working with a critical mass of businesses who shared a common location, and addressing the specific barriers to investment identified by those businesses. This approach not only achieved widespread support, but stopped business flight and job losses from the park, reduced crime by 70%, attracted over £12 million of private sector investment and helped create over 200 new jobs.
The Langthwaite Project's success established an evidence base of practical measures to help businesses work together with local authorities and support agencies to achieve reductions in crime, environmental improvements and the growth of inter-trading. Actively engaging businesses in the process of renewal effectively formed the foundation for the successful and sustainable revival of the park.
RCP21 followed the Langthwaite and MITKE approach by targeting specific issues facing our parks. To identify those issues, a strong evidence base of local conditions were gathered to ensure the transfer of good practices can flourish in very different locations. Previously there were significant gaps in our knowledge base of the region's business and industrial parks, from quantity to physical condition, business composition and potential for growth.
Improving our detailed knowledge of the region's business and industrial parks helped us to target activity within and between the parks and to improve business efficiencies.
Business and industrial parks, by their nature, offer a critical mass of enterprises to work with. These form both the means and the ends to developing dynamic and cost-effective working partnerships within and between those parks. These 'captive audiences' have the potential to work together in innovative new ways to reduce their costs and help them remain competitive despite the pressures of the current economic downturn.
The region's 22 local authorities played a key role in providing the vision, leadership, skills and capacity to tackle these challenges. The RCP21 project worked with the authorities to establish a snapshot of the business and industrial parks in their area, and to equip their planners, environmental services departments, development agencies and other stakeholders with the tools to catalyse their improvement and growth. The key project outcome was to move beyond partnership into creating focused teams that act on common issues and solutions on the ground to build a new competitive edge for the region's business and industrial parks.
RCP21 set out to achieve this through a programme of:
- Knowledge Transfer Workshops - Providing local authority representatives with the baseline data and research undertaken on the region's business parks, as well as the latest European practices, techniques and mechanisms for addressing common issues and barriers. A toolkit was produced providing a repository of knowledge, information, contacts and case studies for dealing with practical problems on business and industrial parks, so that the impact of RCP21 is felt far beyond the project timelines of 2011.
- Business Collaboration Activities - A series of collaborative activities and joint networks were delivered to provide tried and trusted solutions for tackling specific issues, such as; reduction of crime, carbon emissions and energy costs, and the facilitation of inter-trading on and between parks locally, regionally and globally.
- Capacity Building Exchange - Creating a platform for the exchange of knowledge and skills between the local authorities as well as the opportunity for developing a deeper understanding of and links into European resource networks.
- Action on Climate Change - Facilitating the creation of business and local authority partnerships to agree joint solutions to reducing waste, saving energy and using renewable energies to create greener, cleaner parks.
RCP21 is a unique opportunity to revolutionise the way our business and industrial parks work for the businesses located on them; and to reinvigorate the parks as the engines of a new wave of regional growth.
The project started on the 1st September 2009 ending 31st March 2011 and achieved the following outputs:
- A comprehensive mapping of the region's Business and Industrial Parks (BAIPs) identifying 1,756 parks.
- Mapped 60 BAIPs across the region identifying businesses located on them to stimulate inter-trading activity.
- Conducted 8 knowledge transfer events involving stakeholders to share best practice and know-how.
- Attended 4 MITKE International Workshops to exchange knowledge between 11 European partners on the management of business and industrial parks.
- Instigated and facilitated four business collaboration networks on the issues of: crime, transport, energy and sustainability.
- Produced an interactive toolkit published in digital (usb) and print (booklet) to ensure best practice and knowledge learnt can be shared beyond the project timescales.
- Developed an interactive website showing data collected on BAIPs across the region
- Marketing activities included the production of 4 project newsletters disseminated to over 200 stakeholders, over 20 articles/appearances in press and media and 7 quarterly activity reports produced for stakeholders.
*MITKE is an 11 strong partnership across 7 EU countries, with first leading the major component identifying and analysing good practice on business and industrial parks. The project is designed to identify and pilot the transfer of good practice between business and industrial parks across Europe.