Harrogate and district has a long established reputation as a tourist destination. Mention of Harrogate brings up images of Bettys famous tearooms; of the Tour de Yorkshire; the beautiful parks and gardens.
Spreading out from the western side of the Yorkshire Dales, the district is a mixture of high fells and peaks, steep sided valleys shaped by millennia of slowly moving glaciers and rolling hills of luscious farm land. Scattered throughout are chocolate-box villages with traditional stone buildings, floral displays, church towers and welcoming pubs.
With open squares, independent shops, cafes and restaurants and little museums and galleries they are the perfect base for exploring the District more widely. The Dales towns of Pateley Bridge and Masham make a great base for walkers, cyclists and those with a love of the outdoors who want to explore glorious Upper Nidderdale. Knaresborough and Boroughbridge have a deep and fascinating history in and amongst their thriving independent shops. The unspoilt little Cathedral City of Ripon is steeped in history with a selection of Museums, the 7th Century Cathedral itself and a World Heritage Site – Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal – nearby.
The natural landscape of the district is often the star attraction, carved from the earth by the elements over millions of years, from the extraordinary formations at Brimham Rocks to the dramatic gorge where Knaresborough spills down to the river. With nine full sized reservoirs and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, nature is never far away. Wetland nature reserves, deer parks and the open moors provide plenty of opportunity for the budding bird watcher or wildlife photographer. King fishers and dippers frequent the River Nidd and the distinctive shape of Red Kites is often seen overhead.
Geographically the Harrogate district is slap bang in the centre of the UK; covering an area of 1,300sq km and with a population of 160,000. Equidistant from East and West coast and half way between London and Edinburgh, the area is well served by motorways and the rail network; and Leeds Bradford airport is only 20 mins from Harrogate – making it accessible from all corners of the UK and beyond.
So there is undoubtedly plenty to excite visitors and keep the hotels and guesthouses busy, and Harrogate has three times been voted the happiest place to live in the UK.
However; there is MUCH more to this story than first meets the eye. Harrogate is a thriving district supporting prominent high value sectors, with an enviable talent pool and a vibrant network of start-ups, scales-ups and established players.
To fully appreciate where Harrogate is today it’s a good idea to take a look back.
Harrogate became known as The English Spa in the 16th Century after William Slingsby discovered that water from the Tewit Well mineral spring possessed similar properties to that from the town of Spa in Belgium. In the 17th and 18th centuries further chalybeate (iron-rich) and sulphur rich springs were discovered and became a popular health treatment with an influx of wealthy visitors descending on the town to take the waters – and to bathe in them – no doubt helped by a recommendation from none other than Queen Elizabeth I’s personal physician.
The Royal Pump Room was built in 1842 and at its peak attracted 15,000 people each summer. The Turkish Baths were opened in 1897 and are still in operation today – although the treatments nowadays focus more on wellbeing and relaxation than the cures proffered in earlier times.
Harrogate has always been a sought after meeting place and in 1884 the town changed its constitution to become a Borough Council with an appointed mayor, specifically in order to welcome the British Medical Association. One hundred years later the iconic Conference Centre was built and the Harrogate Convention Centre regularly hosts the annual conferences for some of the leading medical associations and scientific bodies including the Association of Anaesthetists, British Blood Transfusion Society, Association of British Neurologists, British Transplantation Society, the Royal College of Physicians and many more.
So coming forward to the summer of 2019 and businesses in and around the town continue to build upon the history of innovation and invention.
There are a number of scientific research & development businesses established in the town with a network of associated support services such as specialist recruitment agencies and legal services.
Smithers Viscient offers business solutions in the areas of environment and consumer safety through knowledge and technology and their UK division is in Harrogate.
Ian Siragher, MD of Smithers Viscient told us “For an R&D business like Smithers one of the best things about being in Harrogate is the overall eco-system we’ve got, of a lot of businesses like this in the area. In addition we’ve got a very well educated workforce, so that’s important to us, and we’re a global business so we need good infrastructure, good links – we’ve got the motorways, we’ve also got Leeds Bradford airport in the area so if you take all those things together you get a very powerful package.”
Covance Laboratories currently employ 1600 staff at their facility in the town and a spokesperson recently cited Harrogate’s location and connections to the supply chain as vital to the company’s expansion.
Other sectors represented in the District include Europe’s largest cold-storage facility. Reed Boardall at Boroughbridge is the UK’s largest single-site frozen food consolidator. The 55 acre site boasts over 100km of rack space.
As the screen industries continue to flourish in Yorkshire so do the dynamic and innovative Creative services companies that are on our doorstep – Stage One in Tockwith, for example, design and create awe-inspiring installations for Olympic Games opening ceremonies; as well as TV and theatre sets and experiential events.
Tim Leigh, Sales and Marketing Director of Stage One Creative Services summed it up nicely “It’s a super place to work but also it’s a super place to live. It’s a great place to bring up children – the facilities and infrastructure here are World class and it’s just a delightful place to exist!”
A major consideration for businesses locating in the district is access to a quality workforce and Harrogate scores well here – with 43% of the population educated to degree level or above. The district is part of the Leeds City Region which boasts the highest concentration of higher education institutions in the UK outside of London. With nine universities, in total the region produces 38,900 graduates a year, with over 15,000 of these in STEM subjects.
If you would like to learn more about how Harrogate Borough Council can help with any aspect of your business please visit our website www.investinharrogate.co.uk or call us on 01423 500600