Animmersion co-founder and managing director Dominic Lusardi explains why the new tech plans for Middlesbrough are justified…
Over the last 15 years, we have seen an industry come out of nothing, from its humble beginnings at Victoria Road on Teesside University’s campus, a business growth hub with just a few companies, to what we have today – a bustling digital cluster that has helped breathe new life into Middlehaven.
We’ve gone from a few companies desperately trying to find their own way to multiple businesses employing hundreds of people within the Boho zone, of which both Boho One and Boho Five are fully occupied.
I was extremely saddened and disappointed to see somewhat narrow-minded comments around the plans for the new £250m development in Middlesbrough, with some claiming it to be a “white elephant”.
As business leaders and entrepreneurs, we want what is best for both the area and our business, and currently there is no room for us to grow.
Fifteen years ago, a vision for transforming the town into the new digital economy was created for the town and the people that live and work here. It tried to give hope and ambition that the challenges of the past could be addressed now if we are forward thinking, innovative and ambitious.
As a result of thinking big, we now have multiple digital businesses expanding at a much higher level than at national rate, and it’s imperative that we create the space for them to grow and develop here in the Tees Valley.
Many of our digital companies don’t need to be here. This industry can pretty much be run anywhere if there is a good internet connection, appropriate infrastructure and transport.
Currently, Middlesbrough does have empty offices which, on the face of it, would seem appropriate. But with expensive fit-out costs, a lack of suitable networking support and poor broadband, it’s easier for the companies to look elsewhere than invest into an office space here.
We cannot be complacent and expect that our growing tech and digital companies will stay here and continue creating jobs for the Tees region if we don’t up our game.
So the recent announcement to grow our digital capacity and to think big is not only welcome news, but I believe vital for the area if we want to retain the talent.
By creating THE digital city of the future, we are not only ensuring that we retain our companies and create new and sustainable employment, but it also breeds even more ambition.
When we moved into Boho One 12 years ago, the building was 75% empty, and most said it was never going to work. It’s now full – and there’s no room for us to expand to.
If we stop now and don’t invest, all the hard work and ambition will be undone, and we’ll lose what could become this region’s biggest single employment sector, and one that would rival not only Leeds and Newcastle, but Manchester and London.
To label the new plans a “white elephant” is lacking in ambition and foresight.
Now is the time to support this development, not derail it!