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Public-Private Partnerships Are Fueling Manchester’s Economic Powerhouse


In September, online beauty and wellness retailer The Hut Group finalised plans to develop 1M SF of office and studio space across two sites in Airport City. The Hut Group will invest £750M in the area over the next three years, and the project will support up to 10,000 jobs. 

“As a technology-led, e-commerce business with a significant international footprint, THG is the ideal anchor occupier for the first phase of Airport City Manchester, which will bring significant job creation to the region and further emphasise our position as a hub for international commerce,” Manchester Airports Group Chief Executive Charlie Cornish said to Place Northwest.  

Airport City is a business and leisure hub made possible by several public and private stakeholders, including the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Manchester Airports Group. The Hut Group’s leasing announcement is the first step in a larger trend of global companies looking to attract top-notch talent and expand their geographic footprint. It is just one example of Manchester’s larger growth story, which has positioned the region as a magnet for commercial real estate leasing and investment. But maintaining its spot as one of the fastest growing cities in the U.K. has been no easy feat. It has required a collaborative effort on behalf of public, private and nonprofit organizations to aid Manchester’s continued economic development. 

Manchester has long played an integral role in driving Britain’s economy forward. With a gross value added of £49B, the region continues to be one of the world’s leading economic capitals. Technology, engineering, life sciences and financial services companies are all flocking to the area to reap the rewards that Manchester has to offer. 

The Northern Powerhouse is one coalition of public and private organizations fueling this growth. A part of the British government’s industrial strategy, the Northern Powerhouse is an effort to work with local stakeholders to improve business operations and opportunities in the North of England. 

For investors looking to get involved in local projects, the Northern Powerhouse serves as a resource that provides visibility into investment opportunities. Its website offers an updated list of projects ripe for investment. Investors and developers can then get in on specific projects that fit their needs, and the needs of the larger community. For example, Northern Powerhouse brought together developers, investors and planning experts to collaborate on MediaCityUK, an international technology and innovation hub that is home to media and tech giants like the BBC and ITV, allowing the original development to double in size.

The new Hut Group campus at Airport City, Manchester

The most successful public-private partnerships have several characteristics in common. For example, many of these projects take time, requiring a high level of patience and flexibility from the parties involved. Public-private partnerships also rely on genuine community engagement. According to a report from U+I, the teams leading these projects need to get buy-in from the community. This means being sensitive to the needs of citizens and listening and responding to their concerns. 

When done right, these partnership efforts can have long-term benefits. The Northern Powerhouse helped connect the partnering companies and organisations that would go on to create Airport City. 

Many expect The Hut Group’s announcement and the rise of Airport City to produce a domino effect of sorts. More businesses are witnessing the benefits of relocating to Manchester. The city’s connectivity to an international community and access to a competitive workforce has several companies rethinking their leasing and location strategies. 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Gowling WLG. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.