With its origins dating back to the Roman occupation of Britain, Reading, then known as Calleva Atrebatum, was nothing more than a port town. The town played a pivotal role in the English Civil War coming under siege in 1642 by Parliamentary forces looking for King Charles. Literary geniuses Jayne Austen and Oscar Wilde both spent periods of their life there, Austin being educated at Reading Ladies Boarding School between the years 1784-86, as for Wilde, he was imprisoned in Reading Gaol from 1895-97.
However, instead of resting on its history Reading has gone on to become one of the most strategically important settlements in the UK, it is to London what the Silicon Valley is to California.
As the ceremonial capital Berkshire, the might of Reading has helped the county climb to 19th place in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) table of regions’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With a GDP per capita in 2007 $47,516, Berkshire finished two places above of New York and 23 places above California, making Reading is one of the most affluent areas in the world.
In a similar vein to Silicon Valley, . Following the initial arrival of International Computers Limited and Digital, who are now Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard , Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Verizon and Xerox have all set up camp in the town. In an area that is just 61km2 it comes as no surprise that office space to rent in Reading is becoming sparse, London by contrast is 1,572km2. Thankfully, due to the high market demand from companies wanting to move into the area the local council have the funds to expand, which they are doing through Benson Elliot, who will develop the Station Hill area in the centre of town. This will see 1.2m sq ft of development, most of which will be much needed office space but there is 32,000 sq ft allocated for retailers, 9,000 sq ft for leisure amenities and circa 300 flats.
Reading is constantly growing, population wise it has grown from 143,124 inhabitants in 2001 to 155,300 in 2011. As the population continues to grow, so will investment. More housing will be needed and infrastructure will have to be updated to cope with the increasing population. If you you’re familiar with Keynesian economics you’ll know how beneficial this will be. With councils having to invest in construction, low level workers will have steady employment, which in turn means they’ll have more money in their pocket thus they have more disposable income which would result in further growth. Per se, every £10 in a workers pocket, £1 will go back into the local economy. Unlike the disastrous Keynesian politics of the Labour party in the 1970s, this is natural growth and one that is sustainable.
Growth leads to job creation and Reading unsurprisingly is the best place in the country to find a job. With a 51.9% yearly start up rate, the fifth highest in the country, and the third highest ratio of businesses to people, for every 10,000 people there are 396.8 businesses – these in turn give Reading the highest employment rate in the UK at 78.1%. There are upwards of 30,000 people that commute to Reading daily to work, it has a similar sucking effect that London possesses. Reading is growing at an unprecedented rate and by all accounts will continue to do so.
Due to the town being heavily involved in modernised business it has been able to ride the recession wave. Where dated industrial businesses faltered, the IT sector that engulfs Reading has gone relatively unscathed and when you consider that 177,700 people are employed by private sector companies in the town, it just goes to show how stable their micro-economy is. With the average wage being £606, the second highest in the country, Reading will continue to suck in some of the best employees that the country has to offer and as such their GDP will again rise.
Reading is definitely the Silicon Valley of Britain, combined with London they make up an economic behemoth.