The engineering industry underwent radical restructuring in the second half of twentieth century, and productivity improvements led to large job losses. Despite this, local engineering firms built new factories, and Leeds is now the 8th largest engineering centre outside London. Important companies include Schneider Electric, making electrical switchgear, Doncasters Monk Bridge, (precision forgers), and VAW Yorkshire Foundry.
Printing is the second largest manufacturing industry Leeds, which is the second major centre in the country for paper, printing and publishing. Major firms are Communisis Chorleys (formerly Waddington's) and Polestar Petty. Alf Cooke's printing works on Hunslet Road is now owned by the printing firm Bonar Imca.
The chemical industry was always dependent on other industries for its success, and as the textile industry declined, the chemical industry which supplied it with dyes, declined also. With the increase in manufacture of man-made fibres in the 1950s there was a demand for new dyes and chemicals, both in the UK and overseas. By the 1970's Yorkshire Chemicals was exporting to 52 countries. But in the 1990's textile and dye production moved overseas, and local companies had to adapt to a changing market. Pigments, dyes and other chemicals are still made in Leeds, many of the firms being part of much larger international companies. Examples are Lever Faberge (formerly Joseph Watson and Sons) and the Yorkshire Group (formerly Yorkshire Chemicals), which make dyes for both textile and non-textile products.
The Food and Drink Industry
The food and drink industry is of growing importance in Leeds. National companies like Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd. have factories in Leeds. Richmond Foods which began making ice-cream in 1985 as a small firm employing 4 people, is now of national importance. Carlsberg Tetley, is still brewing beer in a much enlarged factory on the banks of the River Aire.
Other Manufacturing Industries
As well as engineering, printing and chemicals, there is a range of other manufacturing industries in Leeds, including textiles, clothing, leather, rubber and plastics, glass, furniture and re-cycling.
Textiles and Clothing
Although the textile industry is no longer a mainstay of the economy in Leeds, there are still specialist firms like Hainsworth's who make protective fire-retardant fabrics. Burton's, now a clothing retailer, rather than a manufacturer, and part of the Arcadia Group, is still a household name, and has a shop on the Headrow.
Most of the tanneries in Leeds have not survived, but leather goods are still made there by Pittards plc. who are based in Yeovil, but who have had a factory in Leeds for over a century. The firm uses specialised tanning processes to produce fire and water-resistant leathers, and leathers with high flexibility and resistance to sweat. These are used to make sports and military gloves, footwear, and luxury leather goods. The factory in Leeds makes shoes and leather goods.
New factories and offices and new houses for the workforce mean work for construction companies. There are many new projects in Leeds like the developments on the waterfront, and the regeneration of older buildings in the city centre. All this makes the construction industry a major contributor to the Leeds economy.
Wholesale Distribution and Transport
As has always been the case Leeds is well-placed for access to markets east and west of the city. With the building of major new roads like the M1, the M62 and the various link roads this access has been enhanced, as have routes to the north and south of the country. Leeds is now a major distribution centre with companies like Farnell Electronic Components and Winerite Ltd. having warehouses in Leeds.
Despite the decline of manufacturing industries in the twentieth century Leeds business people took advantage of new opportunities and the city is now home to new industries.
Media and Communications
Leeds is the third largest centre for media and communications in the country, with the industry continuing to grow. Companies based in Leeds include: O2 (formerly BT Cellnet), Orange Multimedia Operations, and Cable and Wireless. The buildings on the site of Matthew Murray's Round Foundry are being rebuilt to house the Round Foundry Media Centre, which will provide office space for new and growing businesses.
Financial and Business Services
It is this sector of the economy which has contributed most to the growth of the Leeds economy in recent years. There are 30 national and international banks in Leeds, along with insurance companies, accounting firms, law firms and other financial services. Many companies, like British Gas and Ventura have call centres in Leeds. The First Direct Call Centre occupies the site of the old Waddington's factory.
|Click images to enlarge|
Doncaster's Monk Bridge, 1999
Yorkshire Foundry, 1999
Bonar Imca (Cooke's), 1999
Yorkshire Chemicals, 1999
Carlsburg Tetley, 1999
Construction of NCP car park
BT Cellnet (O2), 1999
Bank of Scotland, Wellington Street, 1999
Zurich Financial Services, 1999
First Direct Call Centre, 1999