Businessman says Bradford should focus on what it's good at, and that is food.
A report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership suggests Bradford's empty mills should be utilised to create hubs for start-up businesses. The think-tank chaired by former Chancellor George Osborne cited a real need for new business 'incubators' and co-working offices across the North, "with ready access to mentoring, and support and connections to local businesses". Historically, Bradford was the richest city in Europe in 1910, and a city many believed was destined to take its place alongside such great cities as Chicago, Philadelphia and Hamburg, on the twentieth-century world stage. The early part of the 20th century has seen the need for major long-term decisions to be made. in order to secure its long-term prosperity.
While some historic textile mills in the area like Listers Mills have already been converted into ﬂats, gyms, shops, or ofﬁces; businessman and solicitor Iqbal Singh, popularly known as Simmy Sekhon of the Sekhon Group of companies, doesn't think this is the answer. Mr Sekhon already has three business enterprise hubs in Bradford but says he sometimes struggles to get rent even at £30 per week. 'Why do we need ofﬁces in Bradford” Mr Sekhon told Asian Sunday. My family are rich and therefore bought most of our properties in 1972. so we can afford to charge low rents. Additionally, we have a lot of residential stock, so we can subsidise our commercial stock. New enterprise hubs are likely to cost more money based on today’s property prices, meaning the running costs would result in high rents.
Mr Sekhon added: “I firmly believe Bradford should focus on what it's good at, and that is food. We have won curry capital for six years in a row. We are the youngest city in Europe, and have the largest Pakistani population, we should therefore work to our strengths. "We have some of the best farmers in Yorkshire, producing some of the best local produce. We have space for warehousing, manufacturing, and can create opportunities for packaging, labelling, marketing, and so much around food". "Creating the concept of a culinary capital is what needs to happen. This is the advice I gave them (the council) and what they need to do. Local businesses say we need to stop competing with the like of Leeds, and have our own individual identity."
This news article was adapted from the November 2017 issue of Asian Sunday.
Sekhon Group becomes historic Little Germany's biggest landowner, attracted by its 'outstanding' beauty.
Property magnates who have quickly become Little Germany’s biggest landowner say they want to help the famous merchants’ quarter thrive once again.
The Sekhon Group moved its head office into Grade II listed Merchants’ House, in Peckover Street, three years ago and has since bought up a further seven buildings in the historic neighbourhood.
Now its bosses say they want other investors to “share our vision” for what it could become.
The group currently has 850 commercial and residential tenants, with a portfolio which includes homes for rent, a shopping centre, student accommodation and four enterprise hubs in Little Germany, Manningham, Tong and Pudsey.
Simmy Sekhon said: “When we decided we wanted to replace our head office, we chose Little Germany because the beauty of the architecture and the buildings was outstanding.
“We see Merchants House as a gem within this jewel. Like the Kohinoor diamond in the Crown Jewels, we think it’s the Kohinoor of Little Germany, because of its architecture and glass frontage.
“Not only did we think it was a beautiful place and we respected the heritage, but we also had a connection with the founders of these buildings because they were Jewish German immigrants.
“With Nirmal Singh being an economic migrant, we felt a connection with the former custodians of these buildings. We just felt we wanted to continue with their good work.”
But he said they couldn’t do this work alone.
He said: “We are not interested in being the owner of all this site because it’s a 16-acre site.
“We want other people to come and continue to contribute and share our vision and contribute to the wellbeing of Little Germany and hence Bradford as a district.
“Everybody has to contribute towards the wellbeing of this area. We invite other people to come and share and take some responsibility for this lovely heritage we have in this part of the city.
“We welcome other investors and neighbours, or somebody who wants to work with us as a joint venture partner.”
In 2014, Little Germany Action Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation championing the regeneration of the area, had highlighted the fact that around a third of Little Germany’s floorspace was lying empty.
Yesterday, chairman Dave West said he felt vacancy rates were moving in the right direction, but said there was still more to be done.
He said: “I’m delighted that Simmy and Nirmal have invested in the area. I think they have taken on an awful lot of property to try to sort out at once, but the fact they can see the potential is really good.”
But he said a “big problem area” that remained in Little Germany was Well Street.
He said: “I believe Simmy and Nirmal have purchased a building on Well Street but the vast majority of that street, which has superb architecture and is opposite the Broadway, is still empty and that’s a shame.