Cardiff Business District 'needs skills and transport'
Business leaders have welcomed plans for a major business park in the centre of Cardiff, but warned a focus on skills and transport is also needed.
Council leaders hope the area, to be known as Cardiff Business District, could get up to £60m of public money and £100m from the private sector.
Council leader Rodney Berman called it the "start of a new economic blueprint" and "a powerhouse" for Wales' economy.
Proposals include a convention centre, and 4m sq ft of office space.
The district will stretch south from the train station past Callaghan Square and into Cardiff Bay.
It said the revamped bus station nearby would complement Cardiff Central train station to become an "integrated transport hub".
End Quote David Stevens Admiral Insurance
If you can get a number of interesting businesses, it builds a critical mass which attracts more interesting businesses”
Council deputy leader Neil McEvoy said: "Cardiff has been crying out for a Cardiff Business District such as this for years."
He said the site "had perfect transport links with the rail and bus stations".
The council said it might contribute up to £39m to the project, with the Welsh Assembly Government adding £21m.
The council said it hoped to attract "blue chip" companies to the capital and create thousands of jobs.
David Stevens, chief operating officer of Admiral Insurance, which is based in Cardiff, said: "If you can get a number of interesting businesses, it builds a critical mass which attracts more interesting businesses, which in turn builds up support services such as IT, maintenance and catering."
However, he said there would still be challenges for the city.
"As it is Cardiff is only 300,000 [people], it's a little too small to compete nationally and internationally. It needs to bulk up.
What is a business district?
- A business district is a specific geographical area in which businesses are helped to develop.
- The idea is that by having a number of similar businesses close together they create benefits for each other e.g. attracting support services
- Business districts are often supported by tax breaks and public investment in infrastructure, such as roads and transport.
Source: Prof. Brian Morgan, UWIC
"This could be part of that, especially if it's in conjunction with developing its transport infrastructure."
David Russ, managing director of South Wales Chamber of Commerce, echoed the importance of a transport strategy to the plan.
"We need an integrated transport system that can get people from the Valleys to the city centre easily so that they benefit and contribute to the opportunities being created."
He also stressed the importance of training to the success of the project. He said organisers need to build "a skills programme into the plan and make that part of the package presented to business".
Professor Brian Morgan, of the Cardiff School of Management, welcomed the effect the project would have on Wales' reputation.
"By attracting visitors and large conference events to Cardiff it would help raise the profile and image of Wales on the world stage but it would need to ensure that a skills development strategy was introduced alongside and that the best of Wales and Welsh products were used," said Prof Morgan.