Words by: Sion Barry, Business Editor, Media Wales
I have worked and lived in the city for most of my life and witnessed the continuing evolution of the Cardiff story; from an unsure young capital of Wales to one now fully confident of its place in the world. But why would anyone want to move to the capital, whether from another part of the UK or from overseas, to set up in business, work or study?
Well first of all let’s consider the capital’s pedigree for business success. It has fantastic world leading businesses. Here are just two: advanced semi-conductor material manufacturer IQE, which generates around 70% of its turnover overseas and FTSE 100 group Admiral, which employs more than 5,000 in South Wales. But despite the wider economic challenges, what I have seen and reported on increasingly in recent years is of a Cardiff becoming a truly entrepreneurial city with a new wave of wealth creators, whether university spinouts or people of all ages and backgrounds with the confidence to set up in sectors ranging from advanced manufacturing to creative industries.
Recent research from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) reveals that the capital has one of the highest levels of gazelle firms of any city in the UK. Nesta looked at surviving businesses employing more than 10 staff and achieving annualised employment growth of 20% during a three year period. This showed that Cardiff’s percentage of gazelle businesses was 11.3%. Only in Aberdeen, and Birkenhead was the rate higher.
And the latest Wales Fast Growth 50 initiative, which ranks the fastest-growing indigenous businesses in Wales on turnover, shows 15 of them being based in Cardiff – rising to 30 in the Cardiff city-region.
If you are looking for investment and support the Welsh Government has become very much attuned to the needs of wealth creators – while Cardiff Council is also very much looking to work in partnership with the private sector to further improve its economic competitiveness.
Funding from the Welsh Government includes its £100m Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund and its investment bank facility Finance Wales which has a £150m fund to support the SMEs. Commercialisation of research at Cardiff University has been accelerated with the equity investment support of Fusion IP.
A close knit business community means that things can happen quickly, with first class professional advisory firms that can structure and fund deals without costing the earth in fees.
But there is more to life than just work and this is where Cardiff also has a competitive edge over rivals.
It has fantastic sporting, cultural and retail infrastructure in the iconic Principality Stadium and Wales Millennium Centre, as well as its St David’s Shopping Centre. And if you want a different type of retail experience then explore its diverse Victorian arcades.
There are also great schools too, both public and private, in a city with a thriving higher education sector.
Cardiff is a welcoming city to newcomers from around the world – as it has been historically – which has only enriched the city both culturally and commercially.
It is also an easy capital to get around and its centre is in easy reach – so for me it’s a stress free walk each morning along the banks of River Taff to my offices in the shadow of the Principality Stadium.
I cannot think of any other city where I could walk from my home and in only 30 minutes be seated to watch an international football or rugby match at the Principality Stadium, or even closer an England vs Australia Test Match at the SWALEC Stadium.
And if you want to get away for a while, the wonderful coastline stretching to Swansea and beyond is in easy reach, as is the breath taking beauty of the Brecon Beacons to the north.
The city’s transport infrastructure is also being significantly improved. Electrification of the Great Western Mainline will reduce journey times from London to Cardiff, as well as on the key commuter routes into the capital with the Vale of Glamorgan and Valley Lines.
The Welsh and UK Government are also committed to funding an M4 relief road in South Wales and a new distributor road from the motorway into Cardiff Bay from the east. There are ambitious plans for an integrated Metro Transport system focused on allowing people to move more quickly and frequently throughout the Cardiff city-region. And as part of the 2012 investment, Cardiff is now a Super Connected city, delivering high-speed, high-quality, seamless broadband to businesses. In addition, Cardiff houses an internet exchange, which generates much faster access speeds.
So yes Cardiff is small in size for a capital city, but that’s its appeal. Within it you will find great ambition in its business and higher education sectors and first class leisure and retail facilities too… but don’t just take my word for it come and discover it for yourself.