Quorum Business Park’s MD takes us on a journey through the history, culture, and values of the North Tyneside business park with community at its core.
The drive through Quorum Business Park is undoubtedly very impressive. Still looking shiny and new, it belies its true age and that helps you to understand just how much people care about this place.
Located in North Tyneside just ten minutes from Newcastle, Quorum is made up of sixteen commercial buildings, the Lightbox, some retail units, a gym, and a children’s nursery.
Combined with car parking spaces, it looks like a very well-kept business park, but in practice it functions like a big business community thanks to the Hub.
To understand how it’s achieved this, we start back at the beginning.
“The Park itself was built in three phases,” explains Fergus Trim, of Broadoak Asset Management, who has led the team at Quorum for the last nine years. “The original three buildings are about twelve years old.
“There was a big semiconductor factory on part of the site – this was a former Enterprise Zone, and the Government funded the building of the factory. Within about five years, the dot-com bubble burst and the factory closed down – which brought forward the plans to build all of this,” he says, referring to the part of the park we’re sitting in, watching a steady stream of people milling around and between the buildings.
“I was brought in to oversee the third phase, the biggest, which doubled the size of the park and added the retail units, taking us up to sixteen buildings.
“Since then, we’ve been bringing in new businesses and creating the community and environment you see here.”
25 businesses have brought 6,000 jobs to the Park in that time.
“This was all just bear earth and mud when I first arrived,” he recalls. “We spent a lot of time master planning the quality of landscaping and the public realm, because we have a lot of head offices here.”
That jobs number is really significant for Quorum. Fergus and the team are rightly proud of the part they’re playing in the growth of this part of the world.
“We’ve got quite a track record of northshoring here; half of the jobs here have moved around the city or city region, the other half are new jobs that have moved into the North East, and that’s what we get excited about; bringing new jobs to the North East.”
Tesco Bank is the biggest example of that. A restructuring of their business saw their insurance head office and 1,000 staff coming to Quorum. Balfour Beatty chose Quorum ahead of Glasgow; locating their national shared services centre in the heart of the North East.
“Having previously done that from London and their various regional office, they cite this colocation of shared services in this region as saving them £15m each year,” he tells me.
Insure the Box, Engie and Convergys are other well recognised, growing, local success stories who are anchored here.
Aside from the beautiful facilities, what are the main factors in bringing companies to Quorum? “Predominantly access to labour,” Fergus answers quickly. “We do a lot of demographic work, focussing on the availability of skilled labour and the ability to scale quickly.
“It’s not easy anywhere,” he reflects, “but it’s easier here than in some parts of the world.
“The cost of doing business is lower here, but we don’t focus on the cost, it’s about the quality of the environment and the availability of a skilled workforce.
“They could send these jobs offshore, and a lot of people still do that, but we’re trying to make the case for keeping the jobs here, offering a UK service but on a lower cost model than you would in London and the South East.”
And people from all around the North East work at Quorum: “A third of the people who work here live south of the river; the water’s not the barrier that people think it is!”
“We have a full-time travel coordinator here, who’s put a lot of work in with the bus companies and public transport providers to make sure we’re well connected.”
And well connected they are, with up to 51 buses per hour connecting Quorum with all of the major transport hubs around the North East.
Quorum is not yet fully occupied, with space in a handful of buildings on the park. Fergus says they’re really open minded when it comes to the firms who will fill those offices.
“We work up from the smaller end of the scale,” he says. “We have buildings split into smaller suites, with communal facilities, aimed more at SMEs who are growing locally, he cites the tech cluster in Newcastle as something that’s exciting and on their doorstep.
“But we’re also going international, looking further afield for bigger International organisations as well as being the headquarters for home grown North East heavyweights such as Greggs, British Engines and NCFE.
“All are good, and it’s not a case of preferring one over the other.”
And international businesses on the park bring with them their own specific requirements, like access to a multilingual workforce; something Quorum are working hard to support.
“We have a close relationship with the universities and TDR, a training company, is based on the park which is a great asset. We have quite a few companies who need language skills, so that’s a focus for us.”
He shows me a map, the result of a World Cup competition they had in the park a few years ago, which shows that the vast majority of countries in the world are represented somehow by workers here. “This shows how successful the universities are in attracting foreign students,” he says, “but also shows that those students are remaining in Newcastle when they graduate, and becoming part of the workforce here.”
And it’s all of that combined, which creates the atmosphere and community feel that Quorum has which sets it apart from cold, grey, concrete and steel parks.
“We had 300 events on site here last year; from a big food fair, to a Christmas market and summer barbeques, through to a football league and Wimbledon events.
“We even keep bees here, and people get to put on the beekeepers’ outfits and help create the honey we sell at the Christmas market each year.“
Fergus himself has been northshored; he worked for 16 years in London, for BNP Paribas real estate in the M25/M4 corridor, working on business parks near Heathrow. “I lived in Edinburgh when I was young, but I had no connections to the North East, so I had my own sales job to do on my family!”
And after nine years here, he really understands that the quality of life is part of the offer. “My wife is from Surrey and had never lived outside Surrey and London before moving here. She’s a convert; we’re all converts!
Quorum is Broadoak Asset Management’s biggest scheme in Newcastle, but they also run Maxim, a similar sized park just outside Glasgow. They make sure to help that scheme benefit from the good practices they’ve put into place here.
And looking ahead, they’re looking to maximise the lettings on their current projects, as well as bringing in new stock - and new opportunities.