Availability of office accommodation in South Staffordshire has not been a subject to provoke a great deal of thought, discussion or debate - until now.
Office accommodation in the Cannock Chase area has traditionally been sought by small businesses with up to five employees, usually with 300-500 sq ft of floor space in converted Victorian buildings and/or over shops. Supply has generally responded to demand and local commercial landlords have looked no further than the end of the road for tenants when vacancies have arisen.
However, from early 2004, the end of that particular road is now going to be a junction off the superhighway known as the Birmingham North Relief Road (M6 Toll Road) - and while existing arrangements will continue to meet the office needs of Cannock's home-grown businesses, the Toll Road will drive larger companies to the Midlands to take advantage of the central location, excellent transport links, an indigenous workforce and affordable housing and reasonably-priced commercial properties - where they will be more likely to want thousands of square feet for office and support staff.
Pritchard Holdings is convinced this will mean the Toll Road will not remove demand for traditional offices or result in existing tenants being moved out by bigger business, but will instead add an extra dimension to office availability which can only stimulate growth and expansion.
Pritchards recognised 21st century local needs for town centre offices when it built the High Green Court in Cannock, which combines modern ground floor leisure and retail units with upper level offices for high profile clients, including Trinity Mirror, publisher of The Birmingham Post.
Pritchard Holdings is now widening its portfolio and has been constructing custom-built offices for the tide of IT, research, development and mid- hi-tech businesses that will wash in with the M6 Toll and travelled north into Stafford, where the demographics are perfect for clients in these specialist areas.
Pritchards has built Anson Courtand Wolseley Court in Staffordshire Technology Park, close to Stafford town centre. The state-of-the-art business parks sit beside two pools of expertise in research, development and technology and IT: Staffordshire University and the local Business Innovation Centre.
Pritchard foresees these providing a local source of tenants for offices - both in their own businesses and as employees with firms coming from elsewhere in the UK - and beyond.
Overseas firms are already in Anson Court offices and clients closer to home (literally, in the case of charity Barnardo's) are negotiating a lease there. A catering firm, sensing a gap in the market, is already knocking on the glass and steel doors of Wolseley Court - due for completion at the end of September.
The Towers Business Park in Rugeley and Lakeside Plaza at Churchbridge recently planning permission and will deliver office space totalling up to 100,000 sq ft at opposite ends of Cannock Chase by spring 2004, which will generate hundreds of office vacancies for local people in an area that needs inward investment more than any other in Staffordshire.
Office availability is not just determined by the structure and design of the building in which it is housed: form and content also play a part in making accommodation accessible, especially when the form is a lease. The contents of some agreements have been known to force businesses to reconsider their move to otherwise ideal offices, as they are too onerous.
Flexible terms are one of the most desirable extras that can be built into an office lease - and often persuade a company to take property that might otherwise lie empty. Pritchard Holdings' policy is to fill office space that clients can then tailor to their own needs and to make transition as stress-free as possible, so lease terms are always negotiable, which is no doubt a contributory factor to High Green Court being fully let Fred Pritchard, chief executive and chairman said: "Office availability will change for good - and for the better - when the M6 Toll opens. Pritchards are miles ahead in creating and proposing plans for office space for local businesses and new commercial enterprises setting up in and around Cannock Chase and Stafford.
"Helping small and medium enterprises is a priority - which means each of our clients is a priority. At the end of the day, we are both doing business and if we can help each other from the start, it is usually the beginning of a good working relationship for both sides for us both to grow our businesses."