Weavers Court Business Park

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Weavers Court Business Park's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Weavers Court Business Park is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.weaverscourt.com

1WEAVERS COURT BUSINESS PARK |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Managing Director Tom Ekin
The former HQ of the Ulster
Weaving Company
Weavers Court Business Park is home to over 40
different national and international businesses,
ranging from those involved in Hollywood to global
technology firms. Based in the heart of Belfast, minutes from
the city’s centre, an old linen factory has been transformed
into a modern commercial and technological hub that has
contributed to the regeneration of the area. At 78, Managing
Director and former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Ekin discusses
the park’s growth and the difficulties associated with his
election to the local council.
We are a campus-style, hi-tech business park, based in the heart of Belfast, with
work spaces ranging from 180-square foot single offices to 40,000-square foot
office blocks, with various sizes in between.
We are home to over 750 employees in 42 different businesses, spanning
technology and other sectors. We are only 10 minutes’ walk from Belfast city
centre with its hotels and social life, five minutes from the newly developing
Weavers Cross Transport Hub, and 15 minutes’ walk from the two universities.
Our managing ethos is based on rapid decision-making and we strive to be progressive
and innovative while ensuring that we are present every hour of everyday.
Our history and development
The dream of a 50-year-old on the dole in 1991, of taking on a declining linen
factory site and converting it to a hi-tech, campus-style business park in the heart
of Belfast, is slowly being realised.
FACTS ABOUT
WEAVERS COURT BUSINESS PARK
»Managing Director: Tom Ekin
»Established in 1990
»Based in Belfast
»No. of employees: 9 directly,
758 in the park
»Services: Provision of office
space
Weavers Court
Business Park
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| WEAVERS COURT BUSINESS PARK
The old, near derelict, ten-acre site
is in a deprived part of Belfast where
sectarianism, despondency and fear
were paramount and where the local
people had been let down for decades
by politicians and other leaders.
Location and timing in property
development are critical. I got them
both wrong, but from circumstances
where the number of factory workers
was reduced from 100 to five, we now
have a site that employs 758 people.
Although we are in the heart of
Belfast, we have open lawns, with
picnic benches, a fountain and flower
beds, which are used for recreation
and fundraising events.
The businesses on our site
The businesses we host are generally
involved in hi-tech cyber security as
well as other technological businesses
such as aeroplane design, movie
and music production, medical
research, mobile telephony and cloud
applications. Alongside this, we added
talented commercial photographers,
public relations companies and
imagedesigners.
We also host start-ups including a
mobile barbershop. Among those
that work in the media, we act as a
base for the staff of
Mastermind
and
also provide office space for
Game of
Thrones
. We were the first to introduce
superfast broadband to every single
office on our site. Beyond this, we run
our own facilities management and
have on-site car parking, something
especially useful due to our location in
the city centre.
Our commitment to social inclusion
also means that we have the Prince’s
Trust, Co-operation Ireland and the
British Deaf Association as tenants.
We also host Farset Labs, a co-
working space for bright technology
professionals who run their own
hackathons, Raspberry Jams, global
gaming jams and who create their
own businesses. Alongside this, they
voluntarily run the “Coder Dojo”,
which teaches six to 14-year-old local
children to computer code.
The impact of politics
It has been said that involvement
in local politics is one of the signs
of a business heading for disaster.
We experienced this first hand. My
election to the Belfast City Council was
accidental. I was persuaded to run, but
on the assumption that I would come
second and therefore not be elected. It
didn’t work out as I had anticipated.
Being an Alliance Party councillor,
and thus being middle of the road,
progressive and strongly anti-sectarian,
while also holding the balance of
power, my small group was invariably
criticized for every contentious decision.
This had a major effect on our
business, from sectarian threats of
violence to intimidating graffiti and
obstruction of the single entrance.
Progress was therefore slowed and
attention was diverted towards trying
to persuade the local residents that
Award winning, hi-tech
conservation building
Location and
timing in
property
development
are critical. I
got them both
wrong
3WEAVERS COURT BUSINESS PARK |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
we were going to make commercial
progress that would have a beneficial
effect on their area and the trade with
the declining local shops. A recent
count indicated that about 150 people
leave the park daily at lunchtime to
spend money in the immediate area
and about 40 people have relocated to
live within half a mile.
As Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2004, I
had to bring my daughter over from
London to keep the park running
while I pursued a programme whose
aim was to make Belfast less sectarian
and insular. This involved big issues
such as trying to improve annual
parades, which were seen to be
divisive, and attending meetings of
various paramilitary groups in order
to make progress. This also involved
breaking out and publicly attending
and supporting different religious
groupings, not adhering to the City
Council Standing Orders of Scriptural
Reading at Council meetings, breaking
Purdah before the election and so on.
Many of these actions, while seeming
to be progressive and normalising, had
to be modified because of the effect
on our business. My shareholders
understood the issues but, living in
Great Britain, they were quite rightly
less sympathetic, and implicitly asked
why we bothered to develop a good
business in the face of such negativity.
Intimidatory paramilitary graffiti and
stencilled insignia on our walls were
not always removed by council officials
because of fear and so we had to do
it ourselves, in order to reduce the
negative effect on our employees or
our tenants’ employees.
Improving Northern Ireland’s
productivity
Northern Ireland has lower
productivity than Great Britain and
politically we tried to improve this.
Toomany businesses were beholden in
various ways to the political processes
and the people involved, and because
of the relatively small size of Northern
Ireland, this had a particularly
negativeeffect.
Northern Ireland needs the brains
and abilities of young people to
make a prosperous and peaceful
future, and those paramilitary groups
must be encouraged to change
tack and to stop giving credibility to
negativeparamilitarism.
With our social outreach, we are
measurably increasing the number
of young people from the area who
achieve third-level education, using
student volunteers as mentors and
reaching out to local schools to give
the less-privileged children better
opportunities.
Looking ahead, we are just completing
our biggest investment to date.
Beyond this, we are also promoting
further development by revisiting our
master plan.
Northern
Ireland needs
the brains and
abilities of
young people
to make a
prosperous
and peaceful
future
The Lady of
Thanksgiving: a symbol
of Belfast’s progress

www.weaverscourt.com

This article was sponsored by Weavers Court Business Park. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster