It is famed as a tourist hotspot and home to a world-class university, but Durham is a serious place to do business too, as John Hill discovers.
Company has the best of all worlds in Durham
MIKE and Sally Waterston started their services business in the basement of a home in Durham City 16 years ago.
They now head up an award-winning business and IT consultancy firm with customers nationwide and an office in London.
Mike said: “We lived here for 25 years before we started our business. Apart from the obvious bonus that it’s only five minutes to work, it represents a considerable advantage because we’re equidistant from Newcastle and Teesside and it’s situated next to the A1.
“Our geographic market area is the whole of the North East.”
Waterstons credits Ron Batty, chief executive of the County Durham Enterprise Agency, for giving them their first leg up, and says the County Durham Development Company is now very active in supporting business.
Mike said: “Because Durham is relatively small compared to Newcastle, we were able to talk directly to the people we needed to, and we’ve got an ongoing relationship with these people.
“We have a policy of not turning down anyone clever, and we have a close relationship with local universities such as Teesside, Durham and Newcastle.
“We try to take on about two or three graduates every year. It’s a major part of our recruitment strategy and it’s very easy to build close relationships with all of the key universities.”
Waterstons ran the rule over its latest batch of graduates in April, and takes part in lectures and competitions held by local universities. It announced a 20% rise in turnover to £4m in the last financial year, but stresses its base “will always be here”.
Sally said: “Accommodation is often more expensive here than Teesside or Newcastle. It was something we had to accept. When we moved to Belmont Business Park we possibly could have got something cheaper in Sunderland but we were so established here we wouldn’t have thought of going.
“We got a great deal on Belmont, and we have an easy-to-find office with lots of parking. The atmosphere is less frenetic, and Durham City is very beautiful.”