OK so not technically a City – which potentially makes the award even more remarkable – but there is no doubt Hemel Hempstead is a town on the up.
Earlier this month, as part of the FDI’s research into the European Cities and Regions of the future, Hemel Hempstead was possibly a somewhat surprising addition to the top 10 list for small cities across Europe in the categories of connectivity and business friendliness. But should we really be that surprised?
In recent years it seems Hemel has unofficially become the “black sheep” of the Watford, Hemel and St Albans triangle, often seeming to fall in the shadows of their more prosperous neighbours in terms of retail, commerce, growth and investment.
But all that is starting to change. With the recent and proposed investment into Hemel’s infrastructure in the town centre and surrounding areas – the economic and social landscape and the perception of Hemel as a place to do business is changing.
"Image sourced from Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors Annual Review 2018"
Hemel is already home to a number of leading national organisations, entrepreneurial start-ups and a host of businesses somewhere in between. There is a thriving business community which is well represented by leaders across multiple industry sectors (including Novo) at the Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors, who meet monthly to discuss best practice, business insight, the future of Hemel and various other topics in addition to offering guidance to the local community and pupils within our schools.
“The aim of the Business Ambassadors is clear. Promote Hemel Hempstead and the surrounding areas, strengthen the reputation of the area as the prime choice for business, attract key people to work and live in the area, create new jobs, attract top talent and persuade investors and developers to see the area as the perfect place to invest.”
This progressive attitude has also been backed by a supportive Dacorum Borough Council who are proud to promote economic growth and prosperity in the local area whilst taking their place as “fully engaged members” of the Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors Scheme, where they encourage dialogue and feedback when shaping economic development in the area.
Furthermore, the Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead is also a firm advocate and staunch campaigner for investment and growth in Hemel.
“Hemel Hempstead is a fantastic place to invest. The town benefits from an excellent combination of great transport links and easy access to a beautiful natural environment with state-of-the-art leisure facilities as well. With the support of a pro-business local council and supportive and informative local business leaders such as the Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors, potential investors will be made to feel welcome and soon recognise themselves the benefits of investing in the Hemel Hempstead area.”
Hemel and the surrounding areas are also well served by a number of good schools and educational facilities, ensuring a steady supply of employees and potential leaders for tomorrow are readily available. And critically, with a real emphasis on investment in Hemel from a business perspective and the emergence of a number of new exciting businesses to complement existing businesses, Hemel can now retain the very best local talent, who previously might have been tempted by the bright lights of the city.
As a business we have certainly taken advantage of local talent with people such as Maurice Duro, George Jackson and – all of whom joined the business directly from local schools and gone on to excel.
Hemel Hempstead is also blessed with exceptional transport links via road, rail and air. London is a mere 25 minute jaunt on the train, the M25 and M1 are both just a 10 minute drive away whilst Luton airport offers a further gateway to the rest of the UK and Europe.
This all adds up and starts to paint a picture as to why Hemel achieved 6th place in small cities for connectivity and 7th place for business friendliness. From being involved in the Hemel Business Ambassadors Scheme, I can certainly verify the validity of business friendliness as I have now liaised with leaders from all walks of life and invariably the people involved – aside from being extremely knowledgeable – are only too willing to open up, share information and help out their contemporaries.
Novo and Hemel
We established Novo in 2011 and quickly identified Hemel Hempstead as a perfect location to grow our business. 6.5 years later and a few office moves on due to expansion and we are still sitting proudly in the centre of Hemel Hempstead. In November 2016 we commissioned the refurbishment of an interesting office space on the Marlowes at significant expense – rubberstamping our commitment to developing a high quality business and investing in the local area.
The design of the office is – I am fairly sure – unique to this area and has been designed to inspire and motivate our people and demonstrate to potential employees and customers that you don’t necessarily have to go to London to find a truly world class working environment.
16 months on and the investment keeps pouring in to Hemel with numerous exciting construction projects in progression or in the pipeline.
The Marlowes shopping centre – in many ways the focal point of the Town Centre - is currently undergoing a series of exciting changes to include a multi-screen cinema and family restaurants to go alongside a refurbished North Court entrance. The high street itself has been subject to significant improvement over the course of the last 2-3 years.
The Forum – Hemel’s impressive council, library and voluntary services hub opened its doors to the public at the start of 2017 as part of the Hemel Evolution regeneration programme, designed to make the town centre “a more attractive and welcoming place to live, shop, work and visit.”
Numerous residential developments have been constructed and continue to be built by leading developers in and around the town centre, again attracting a host of new people to an already bustling area. This increasing talent pool can only be a good thing for the local economy and local businesses.