Reading’s Growing Importance as a Centre for Business

October 2, 2023
News & Insights
Reading has long been a successful centre for business, largely due to its location. Sitting at the heart of the Thames Valley, surrounded by major business parks and with easy access to motorway and airport connections, it’s clear why many household names and blue chips have chosen the area for their UK, or even global, base. But even with such a strong pedigree, the last few years have seen Reading grow in prominence and attract more than its fair share of new occupiers. And with good reason, particularly as the town has much to offer both established and new businesses.

Enhanced transport options

It almost goes without saying that the arrival of the Elizabeth Line has had a positive impact on Reading’s appeal. Shorter rail times into central London and Heathrow, more frequent and reliable services, the station upgrade, and the links to intermediate towns along the route have made Reading even more accessible.

As if to prove the point, research by property firm Knight Frank shows that the locations along the new line which sit within the South East market make up for a quarter of all office take up since work on the line began. Of that 11.8 million square foot of space, Reading accounts for nearly half at 45%. That’s a whopping 5.31 million sq. ft. of office space taken in Reading since work on the Elizabeth Line began.

Quality of office space

It’s not just the volume or range of available office space which matters most to businesses. For the majority it’s the quality that matters most. Knight Frank identify that 95% of lettings in the last 12 months have been for high quality office space, prime new office buildings, or spaces which have been comprehensively refurbished to meet modern standards. This suggests that a particular type of business chooses Reading; one that values its reputation, wants to attract the best staff and is willing to invest.

There's a healthy mix developing too from growing and expanding organisations, to new start-ups and those who are established, but new to the area. Inward investment is extremely valuable as it brings life, fresh ideas, and new technologies to the local economy, as well as diversification. But ensuring our existing occupiers have the right foundations to set up, grow and expand is equally important. This environment creates continuity and longevity of tenure and employment. As a result Reading is an area which enjoys a stable economy.

Strong economic growth

Economic stability is perhaps what provides the foundation for renewed growth. Recent research by PWC/Demos into the annual health of the UK economy delivered extremely positive findings for Reading which ranked 10th among the UK’s 51 top cities for 'good growth'.

As the only ‘city’ in Berkshire to get a listing, Reading enjoys such a high position in the table given its ability to grow out of the pandemic. Low unemployment, high average incomes, a highly skilled workforce, and the number of new businesses setting up and the associated jobs being created mean nearly all elements of the local economy are thriving. This is certainly not the case nationally or even in other major towns and cities around in the region. Many of the new jobs and start ups will undoubtedly be linked to those eye-opening stats on office space take up.

A great place to work

But continued growth in the economy is wholly reliant on attracting the right mix of people with entrepreneurial spirit, drive, ambition, and aspiration that want to run and work in highly successful businesses. And this is where Reading’s appeal as a place to live and work also matters. Get one half of this wrong and you cannot create the holistic economy. So plentiful jobs but no appropriate housing or – on the flip side - a town full of housing but limited employment opportunities results in investment and spending moving to nearby towns and cities.

Reading is currently able to fulfil both sides of the deal. Commercial space has been matched with residential capacity with neither one necessarily outpacing the other or the demand. Public transport has enjoyed investment with the Elizabeth Line and bus improvements and major interchanges have been upgraded to ensure ease of access.

The town centre, whilst facing the same challenges as many other retail centres, seems to be fairing well and continues to offer a successful mix of retail and leisure opportunities. There’s also plenty of open space for walking and relaxing and a lively arts, heritage, and culture scene.

Whilst Reading will always have its detractors (where doesn’t) it's hard to argue with the facts. The town continues to be a vibrant and successful location to live, work and play. And here at The Blade we have the best spot from which to watch it all happen (and some cracking Grade A office space in case you’re looking!).

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