TODAY marks three years since The Press launched a campaign to support York as a business city.
The York Means Business campaign, which aimed to revitalise the economy by encouraging customers to support their local shops and markets and help unemployed people find jobs, was backed by business and political leaders, including the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, when the world was shaken by the global recession.
Three years on, the city is still holding its own against the recession and green shoots are suggesting growth may soon return to the economy.
Despite the loss of hundreds of jobs in the region in the last few months, there are still many success stories as the private sector reported an increase in business activity in February.
According to the Lloyds TSB Yorkshire & Humber Business Activity Index, new business grew for the third consecutive month in February, with larger order volumes creating the rise in output.
Martyn Kendrick, area director for Lloyds TSB Commercial in Yorkshire, said: “The rise in business activity also supported further job creation, with employment increasing at a faster pace than any other region.”
Although unemployment has increased in York over the period, from 2.2 per cent of the working age population, to 2.6 per cent, this is modest in comparison with the regional hike from 3.7 per cent to 4.9 per cent, and lower than the national increase from 3.2 per cent to four per cent.
The past three years have seen the University of York extend its campus, not only expanding the university and creating construction jobs, but providing an innovative and supportive environment for new businesses to start up.
York’s high street has suffered, but compared with the rest of the UK, where on average 14 per cent of shops lie empty, York has less than ten per cent, putting it in the top bracket of economic performance in large centres.
One of York’s new businesses, Yatterbox, will today compete for a prize of £50,000 to invest in growth.
Created by Matt Freckelton, a graduate at the University of York and based on its new campus, Yatterbox monitors social media and identifies and tracks influential users of social media.
Matthew conceived the concept lying in bed on General Election day 2010 and hearing how MPs were relying on social websites to get their messages across.
“Knowing the graduate job market was difficult, he developed the idea into a business.
Matt has received funding from angel investors and a grant from the Technology Strategy Board to prove the market exists for the service, and after winning £5,000 in the regional heat of the Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards, he now hopes to beat the other six finalists to a prize of £50,000.
• York has the third-fastest population growth of all 64 cities in the UK.
• The city supports more than 80,000 jobs, contributing £3 billion to the national economy.
• 78.5 per cent of its residents are economically active.
• 40.9 per cent of its working age population are educated to at least NVQ4 level – the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.
• Only 7.2 per cent have no formal qualifications.
• 1,661 new businesses were started in 2011 - more than ever before and up from 1,511 in 2010.