How Derby's Investment Door is Now Unlocked

Derby Cathedral

Derby Cathedral

I don’t know if you saw the recent BBC online survey aimed at helping identify where people would be happiest to live.

Called iWonder, you simply respond on a scale to ten statements (I see myself as reserved, trusting, lazy and the like) press a button and eureka, tailored to your answers, out pops your perfect place to live.

More interestingly, the tool gives you a score for your current location and helpfully, identifies your absolute worst place in the country, useful I guess if job-hunting.

According to the algorithms driving iWonder, I would be happiest (85% happy apparently) in South Cambridgeshire.

This is the district that wraps around the city of Cambridge and, according to professor Google, its key attraction is the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, with its main house designed by James Gibbs.

Gibbs is best known as being the architect of St Martin-in-the-Fields and, in 1725, he designed Derby Cathedral, so, some synergy with my hometown then.

I suppose South Cambridgeshire is handy for Stansted (wonderful building, awful experience) and has easy access into London.

I did say that iWonder also scores your current home and for Derby, my happiness score is 78%. If I was to move across the border into East Staffordshire, it rises a single point, to 79%, so probably not worth the relocation hassle.

And, the worst place for me to live, according to iWonder - Mansfield, just up the A38, where I sink to a mere 68% of happiness.

The survey is entertaining and fun, I suggest you have a bash.

Underpinning it though, is an essential truth that we deal with every day at Marketing Derby.

Decisions on where to locate yourself, your family and your business, are all influenced by soft, emotional factors, as well as the more traditional hard, rational factors.

Marketing Derby started in 2006 and we always knew that if we were to attract investment and jobs we would have to go out and promote proactively the city.

Thus, our award-winning Embassy events for which we are now well-known and my well-worn Oyster card.

Looking back, I can honestly say that our first five years were spent banging on doors that were closed; locked even.

The generally poor perception of Derby, or simply the absence of any view, gave us a mountain to climb, exacerbated of course by the recession.

We plugged away, ignoring voices of gloom and, over the past few years, things have got much easier.

Our strategy was to create a positive city narrative, based on the hi-tech credentials of Derby’s economy and use this to build confidence in Derby as a place to invest.

Over time, this was reinforced by private sector investments, such as Westfield (now intu) and the many hotels, complemented by the public sector, with projects like the rail station, Roundhouse and Arena.

The perception I talked of has shifted and the doors are now not only unlocked, but even slightly ajar.

Investors tend to cluster and there is no doubt that Derby is now on their radar.

The attention we received at MIPIM in Cannes is beginning to pay back and over the next few months, look out for a series of announcements, a mix of deals done and development opportunities.

Our own ‘mini-MIPIM’, the Derby Property Summit being held at the iPro Stadium on 24th June, will hopefully reveal some of these.

South Cambridgeshire seems a nice place, but when it comes to the diversity of city life, healthy hi-tech economy and general quality of life, Derby is twice as strong.

I think I’ll focus on shifting that 78% score upwards as Derby moves into the next chapter of its transformation.