More than 200 members of the Business Centre Association gathered at the Hilton London in Canary Wharf last week for its annual conference and exhibition, which featured a first-rate line-up of speakers, including highly-respected economics expert Justin Urquhart-Stewart, Google industry head Luke McKend and marketing guru BJ Cunningham.
Julie Calder, chair of the BCA, told the audience it had been both an exciting and challenging year for the BCA with another 130 locations added to its membership and an effective lobbying campaign that had resulted in the average business centre saving £13,000 per annum in empty property rates. She urged members to maintain the campaign by writing to their MPs.
Julie said excellent progress had also been made on a Consumer Charter and online Broker Code of Conduct, and work had begun on lobbying government on a new voucher scheme to support SMEs and eradicate uncompetitive local authority–run business centres. She also highlighted the launch of the new BCA website, the outcome of the first ‘Vision Day’ for many years and the extraordinary work that Jennifer Brooke had undertaken in working with the Metropolitan Police to prevent fraud.
Two new BCA board members were announced at the conference, following the AGM on the first day. Simon Rusk, finance director of Business Environment, and Simon Eastlake, MD of the Serviced Office Company, both join the board.
At the conference dinner on Monday evening, Jennifer Brooke announced the recipient of the inaugural David Poole Memorial Award, established in memory of the BCA’s treasurer who passed away in January 2009. The award - in recognition of an individual or organisation who had made an enormous contribution to the industry - was presented to Tom Stokes, managing director of Evans Easyspace and past chair of the BCA. Jennifer praised Tom's outstanding skills, particularly in his tireless lobbying on empty property rates which made him a deserving recipient.
Other highlights of the conference included panel discussions on the second day. The first, facilitated by Centrix chair Ian Calder, looked at the changing role of the internet in relation to the flexible space industry; the second, chaired by Giles Barrie, editor of Property Week, debated how internet brokers added value to the sector.
Communications provider Essensys, the conference’s main sponsor, used the occasion to promote its new virtual office company t(v)oc, as well as showcase its TV production system, which was a lively focal point of the exhibition area. “It’s one event where there’s value to be an exhibitor in terms of a definite measurable and immediate return,” Essensys chief executive Mark Furness commented. He said their decision to sponsor the conference was partly because “in terms of outward activity, the BCA is second to none”.
Barclays Corporate, who hosted the business breakfast on the first morning, saw the conference as a good opportunity to further strengthen its relationship with the BCA and its members. Terry Myatt, relationship director at the bank, said they have a mandate to grow their support services business in 2010, which includes a steer towards serviced offices. “It’s a very capital intensive industry,” he added. “We look to lend against current and future cash flow and prefer a multi-site operation where the risk can be spread.”
Speaking after the conference, Jennifer Brooke said: “We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees who commented that the content was totally relevant to every aspect of the industry, no matter the size of company. Delegates praised the fantastically high standard of speakers who consistently kept them entertained and held their attention throughout.”