reading 2020

Building on the pillars that underpin Reading’s economic success

In many ways Covid-19 has changed so much of our economic landscape – forcing us re-evaluate how we live, work and do business. And yet so many of the pillars that underpin our economic success story in Reading still apply, writes Nigel Horton-Baker, executive director, Reading UK

Continued future growth will not come out of the aether but will be based on the back of long-standing confidence in resilient Reading, a place of innovation and dynamic businesses, well connected to the world economy, but most of all from the people who make it a great place in which to work, live, do business or visit.

The global economic crisis of 2008/9 seems a lifetime ago now, partly because Reading recovered so quickly from the downturn. The resilience of Reading’s business mix ensured that it was best placed to grow quickly and attract investment, and in the ensuing decade Reading has attracted a stellar catalogue of investment and has captured global businesses that would be the envy of any business location on the planet.

In recent years, it has also diversified its business

infrastructure to offer the largest concentration of co-working space in the South East, with almost 300,000 sq ft of flexible space available to support start-ups and dynamic SMEs.

Reading has been the fastest growing economy in the Thames Valley over the past 20 years (EY UK and Regions Economic Forecast 2020) and pre-Covid its future growth (2020-2023) was forecast as a UK-leading 2.2%. Although Reading has among the highest productivity per worker in the UK (average productivity of £83,800 per job – Centre for Cities Cities Outlook 2020), that growth has been based on much more than just GVA.

Reading has excelled in Good Growth, performing well in a range of key indicators including employment, health, income and skills (PWC/Demos Good Growth for Cities 2019). It is that good growth and quality of life that attracts

talented people to relocate to Reading and persuades businesses they will be able to recruit easily here and bring their existing workforce with them.

The vibrant Reading town centre, with ongoing investment from two successful Business Improvement Districts and thousands of new homes being built alongside the western terminus of the Elizabeth Line, is a real draw for business, while expanding business parks at Green Park and Winnersh Triangle link in to major transport investment such as the new Green Park Station, ensuring the Reading economy can retain its place at the global top table.

People are what have powered Reading since Henry I built Reading Abbey in the 12th century. Our modern-day knowledge economy is dependent on our highly-skilled workforce and our future growth strategy will be based on those people who have innovated and diversified during Covid, who have kept our services going despite the risks and who are champions of their communities.

Our economic recovery plan puts Reading’s people and workforce at its very heart. A post-Covid economic landscape is an opportunity to create a more inclusive, kinder and smarter Reading, a destination for innovators, business and visitors, a real community for


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