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A year of big highs and some lows
11:04am Tuesday 4th December 2012 in Business news
THE year 2012 was always destined to be memorable as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games coincided with York’s 800th anniversary. A lot was expected and there have been ups and downs. Julie Hayes, business editor, reviews the year.
The year started off rather gloomily with casualties on the High Street. Throughout the year, Clinton’s, Game and now Comet are among those that have gone into administration.
At the same time, York has seen other retailers take advantage of openings, with Jessops expanding into Spurriergate, Urban Outfitters replacing Habitat in Ousegate and Yo Sushi filling the former Ponden Mill store in Church Street.
Bad news followed from Del Monte in February, when it announced the closure of its York factory, with the loss of 140 jobs after losing a contract with Morrisons.
But also in February, Network Rail outlined its plans for a new rail operating and training centre, which could bring about 475 jobs to York.
The York Rail Operating Centre, planned by Network Rail for a 7,300 square metre site between York Station and Holgate Bridge, is expected eventually to control all rail operations on the east coast line, from King’s Cross to the Scottish Borders.
Fifteen thousand people packed into York city centre to see the Queen visit York on Maundy Thursday.
The Queen presented Maundy money to 172 people. Pensioners nominated for the honour for their service to the church and community attended a civic lunch with local dignitaries and the winners of The Press’s Community Pride Awards 2011.
York City Football Club spread more joy when the team celebrated a double victory at Wembley.
Players were cheered by thousands of supporters on their victory parade in an open top bus from Bootham Crescent to the Mansion House.
City won promotion with a 2-1 victory over Luton Town at Wembley, eight days after winning the FA Trophy. The parade was City’s first since they were promoted to the old Second Division in 1993.
In June, the Government gave the green light to plans to build a new community stadium at Monks Cross.
The contentious proposals had split the city with camps arguing for economic growth and others campaigning against increased out-of-town development at Monks Cross, as the scheme is underpinned by a retail development which would bring John Lewis to the city as well as provide a new superstore for Marks & Spencer.
City of York Council granted permission for the £90 million retail scheme and the stadium in May and the Government decided not to call the project in for a public inquiry.
The York 800 celebrations, marking the 800 years since York was given its royal charter, came to a climax over York’s Charter Weekend in July, with Ebor Vox, a project in which hundreds of local people came together to form a huge community choir.
The choir sang This York, a song written specially for the celebration as it followed a huge procession, led by the civic party.
York was swept up in Olympic fever over the summer, as the whole country celebrated London hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
About 83,500 people are believed to have seen the Olympic torch pass through York, with 55,000 lining the streets during the day, 23,400 in the evening on Knavesmire and another 5,000 watching it the following morning as it left the city.
The torch relay itself was estimated to have generated up to £1 million of additional spend in the city over the two days, with footfall in the city up 25 per cent on the average for a Tuesday.
Some local businesses also benefitted from Olympic contracts, with Tockwith’s Stage One creating both the Olympic rings which hung from Tower Bridge during the duration of the Games and the Olympic cauldron featured in the opening ceremony.
The Mystery Plays made a comeback in the Museum Gardens in August, attracting more than 32,000 people.
Hundreds of volunteer cast and crew members came together from across the city to put on the successful cultural event.
In September, global insurer Hiscox announced it was to create hundreds of jobs in the city, with a new office in Hungate.
The £1.4 billion-turnover business will initially have 125 staff in York, rising potentially to 500, in the new office which is to be developed alongside a new £18 million, 262-bedroom hotel, which will provide a further 100 jobs.
York Potash also unveiled its plans for a £1 billion new mine, which is expected to create more than 1,000 new jobs in North Yorkshire. The minehead would be based near Sneaton and mine potash, which is used as fertiliser, beneath the North York Moors National Park.
York Potash has since reported it expects there to be even more high quality potash than it first believed, enabling decades of mining on the site, which is subject to planning permission.
Floods battered businesses on the riverside at the end of September, including York Dungeons and new Malaysian restaurant Ning, in Tower Street. In November, more floods again hit businesses still trying to recover from damage two months earlier.
Helen Douglas, general manager of York Dungeon, said the lower floors were flooded again, six weeks after being pumped and dried out and the attraction would now not open until next spring.
Drax Power set about raising £180 million towards converting the power station near Selby to green power after the Government confirmed it would give it the support it needed.
Britain’s largest coal-fired power station, it will now embark on a £650 million-£700 million capital project to transform its plant to burn biomass, such as willow and straw, rather than coal. The project will create thousand of jobs in the supply chain over the next 12 to 18 months, including for Shepherd Construction, which will build new fuel delivery, storage and distribution facilities and through port and rail infrastructure investment.
Confectionery giant Nestlé opened its new £7 million global research and development centre in York. The Product Technology Centre employs 185 people, including world-leading confectioners John Costello and Florian Poirot, and brings together skills including materials science and chemistry of products, new product design and development, marketing, engineering of production equipment and tasting.
The third York Business Week is expected to have attracted about 7,000 business people to a raft of networking events, workshops and conferences held to celebrate and foster business in the city.
Seventeen organisations which put on events during York Business Week, which coincides with Global Entrepreneurship Week, were recognised with High Impact awards.
CPP, the card and identity protection business, has come to the end of a difficult year as a consequence of an investigation by the Financial Services Authority into the mis-selling of some of its products.
While the investigation has now been concluded and the company, which employs about 900 people mainly in York, starts to regroup, it faces more cost-cutting after a £10.5 million fine and other costs of about £35 million related to the investigation.
The Press Business Awards 2012 celebrated the achievements of businesses in York, North and East Yorkshire, especially Ryedale Group, an innovative printing business, which walked away with three awards, including overall Press Business Of The Year.