Vive la différence – MK status gives strength and resilience

SMA Solar headquarters, Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood, Milton Keynes
SMA Solar headquarters, Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood, Milton Keynes

I attended the opening of a superb exhibition of a new sculpture this week at thecentre:mk.

The support of art in the urban environment in MK (supported by Kimbells Solicitors and the Public Arts Trust) once again reminded me that MK is a town that does things differently.

Art and industry may seem not to be linked, but the success of the local commercial property market this summer has demonstrated that we continue to attract and retain growing employers. I am convinced that it is our difference to other urban areas that creates a platform for this success.

The quality and circumstances of the following transactions show that MK has maintained its competitive advantage over other business locations.

For a home grown success story there is Surgi-Call Medical. Created five years ago here in the city, the company now employs more than 80 people and has established itself as one of the country’s leading recruiters of medical and healthcare staff for both the NHS and the private sector, throughout the UK. Needing to expand they have opted to stay put and have leased 9,200 sq-ft in Metropolitan House, Central Milton Keynes.

These prestigious premises were available because the previous occupiers, Davis Langdon, restructured during the recession and closed their Milton Keynes operation. It seems to me a measure of the local economy’s resilience that a company like Surgi-Call has been able to fill the gap left by Davis Langdon within 12 months of the offices coming to market.

Equally as important as being able to nurture new business, is Milton Keynes’ ability to attract new companies for that all-important inward investment.

Cue SMA Solar, Europe’s largest manufacturer of solar energy inverter equipment, an essential component of photovoltaic solar panel installations.

This is becoming a significant growth area nationwide, but SMA selected Milton Keynes as the location for their UK headquarters, choosing premises in Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood, which had been refurbished to a high standard by the landlord following the relocation of a longstanding tenant during the recession. Once again, an expanding company soon filled the vacancy.

The strength of the office sector has been obvious from a number of lettings at The Pinnacle in CMK and Douglas Duff was delighted to advise on one of the most significant: the relocation of Marsh, the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor, with more than 24,000 employees globally.

Marsh has leased 8,000 sq-ft of prime floorspace at The Pinnacle and though they had offices in the city before, this represents a substantial uplift in both size and quality of space.

There is good news from the industrial front as well and I shall highlight two outstanding examples of local companies growing and acquiring new space.

Par-Pak Europe manufactures plastic packaging for a range of industries but with particular expertise in the food sector.

Their parent company is Canadian but Par-Pak has been based in Kiln Farm for 15 years.

They have now bought the 72,000 sq ft detached industrial building, vacated after more than 30 years by Alexon, also at Kiln Farm.

It is earmarked for future expansion and the speed with which a local company stepped up to fill a substantial gap in the industrial scene must be a cause for some optimism.

As is Enveco’s purchase of a 42,000 sq-ft property in Michigan Drive, Tongwell. It was built in 1987 and had just one occupier, Aviation Metals.

They vacated the premises following their acquisition by Thyssen Krup in 2010 – and chose to move to a 130,000 sq-ft property in Wymbush.

Medical recruitment, insurance, solar energy, envelopes and packaging. Economic growth throughout the city across diverse business sectors – that’s what’s so encouraging.

While it continues I believe Milton Keynes will remain resilient and capitalise upon its competitive advantage.