Opportunity and Connectivity
16 August 2016
Sue Simpson - Head of real Estate and Planning at Hill Hofstetter
When Hill Hofstetter was established in 2009, we wanted to find a competitively priced location that would allow us to develop a strong national and international core of clients requiring business law advice – and we wanted to do it during the worst recession since the 1920’s.
You might be forgiven for asking if we had gone mad, but we had a vision, a sense of adventure and a sprinkling of optimism.
We chose the West Midlands’ principal international gateway and its strongest performing regional economy, UK Central in Solihull. Contributing just over £5.1 billion to the UK’s GDP, employing over 100,000 people region wide and with connections to over 35 million people within a two hour travel time, we considered it would provide us with the best opportunity to develop as a business, particularly one focused on working with non-UK based corporations. Its core business sectors also matched all of our key specialisms:
Building and Construction – we are one of the largest real estate development legal teams outside of London working on nationally and internationally significant real estate development projects.
Manufacturing and Engineering – we are consistently ranked top tier business law advisors to manufacturing and engineering businesses with in depth experience of resolving cross border disputes through the UK Courts, arbitrations and adjudication.
Business Services – we are the go-to law firm for professional services mergers and acquisitions, our specialist team work hand in hand with our main stream mergers and acquisitions team.
International Inward Investment – our multi-lingual cross discipline teams are well known for their unparalleled ability to bridge both legal and cultural differences. As all of these sectors in the region have grown we have been able to grow our business with them.
We took offices on Blythe Valley Business Park. In the seven years that we have been here, we have benefited from its unparalleled national and international connectivity. At the heart of the UK road and rail networks with the M6, M42, M5, M40 on our doorstep and the West Coast Mainline bringing London to our door in under an hour we have established a strong national client base.
Probably more surprising is that 85% of our clients are now headquartered outside of the UK – the continued expansion of Birmingham International Airport has meant that we have direct access to all major European Capitals, China, US, Asia and India. That connectivity has allowed us to become established and known as a trusted gateway to the UK for a number of international clients looking to set up or acquire businesses in the UK.
The UK Central Masterplan forms the framework for taking the region forward to 2040. £300m improvement works to Junction 6 of the M42 are nearing completion; these works combined with the planned High Speed Rail Link will elevate the connectivity of the region to another level and will allow access from London in less than 40 minutes. To make the most of the HS2 Central Interchange that will be located in the region £4.4bn is being invested in development of offices, infrastructure, rapid transport and other facilities.
Our clients have also reaped the benefit of the thriving region and remain optimistic for the future – Steve Hird, Managing Director of up market volume house builder CALA Homes in the Midlands has an ambitious growth plan to double their turnover over the next three years. Solihull borough has won the best place to live in the UK for two years in a row (pipped to first spot this year by Edinburgh); it has the longest life expectancy in the UK, has leading and high performing schools, and renowned higher education institutions and internationally renowned universities (Warwick Birmingham and Coventry in particular). It is a fantastic place to live. Steve is not surprised with the continued growth CALA has seen in the region, and expects its sales to thrive despite the uncertainties that the BREXIT vote have created.
We enjoy the Solihull region because it is a verdant and pleasant place to work. We are successful in encouraging lawyers from leading firms in London and Birmingham to join us because our region offers an attractive environment and is a relaxed place to work, with short commuting times. But we also enjoy it because of the challenges and demands of working in a first class business and industrial community, populated by many leading and world-beating international companies. Everyone is aware of the success and swagger of Jaguar Land Rover, which of course dominates local supply chains trickling its wealth down across the region. But then there is Rolls Royce, Genting World Resorts and NEC (the largest exhibition space in the UK).
A number of Swedish businesses have set up divisions in the region for very similar reasons. Trelleborg, for example, manufacturing and supplying seals to the thriving local automotive and aerospace market. Handelsbanken delivering its unique and personal, local banking service to businesses that has become an established and popular alternative to the increasingly automated UK Bank offerings. LeanNova, establishing themselves as a key part of the region’s growing automotive manufacturing supply chain and hub of expertise.
These companies come here and thrive because of the quality of the work force, the excellent connectivity across the region, and strong investment that the UK Government and international companies have committed to it.
Recently, IM Properties, one of the largest privately owned developers in the UK, bought the beautiful business park on which we work – Blythe Valley Park. It has exciting plans to develop more state of the art office accommodation on the Park, planning allocation for a large residential development and for shops and restaurants. It’s a declaration of IM Properties’ commitment to this area. It’s also a reflection of a clever investment strategy in a rapidly growing area which is likely to make a significant return on their investment.
It is great for us to be part of this expansion, and to be in this region with all its vitality. It’s a wonderful place to be, to do business, and to work with international companies.
On 13 October, the SCC is hosting its annual Urbanisation Forum, ‘The Connected City - Next Stop Birmingham’, at Gowling WLG in Birmingham. Click here to find out more about the event.