Birmingham is one of the cheapest cities in the UK when it comes to office occupation costs - and that should help the second city win in the relocation game, according to property experts.
CB Richard Ellis' Global 50 Index, which monitors occupancy costs - including rents, business rates and services charges - for prime office space in cities around the world, places Birmingham in 16th position.
Topping the table is London's West End, where occupancy costs are £107 per sq ft. Tokyo's Inner Central district is second in the list, with costs of £74.97 per sq ft.
Regional rivals Edinburgh and Manchester were ranked joint 11th, with occupation costs of £42 per sq ft, and Leeds was 15th with £38.50 per sq ft.
Occupiers in Birmingham, on the other hand, can expect to pay £37.50 per sq ft - which Martin Guest, managing director and head of office agency at CB Richard Ellis in Birmingham, describes as great news for occupiers in the city.
"Birmingham is the second city and the largest financial centre outside London, so the fact that it is so cost effective in terms of occupancy costs is a real boost for the businesses that operate here and more importantly for attracting inward investment," he tells Business Property Review.
"Total occupation costs - not just headline rents - are key to attracting new businesses from outside the region and they are a fundamental driver for occupier decision-making, particularly if relocating into or within the UK.
"We have already seen the results of this following the Lyons report, with both the Gaming Commission and the Big Lottery Fund relocating to Birmingham as part of the government's plans to move 20,000 civil servant jobs out of the capital and into the regions by 2010."
According to the research, other cities are experiencing cost climbs, particularly London's West End, which has seen costs rise from just over £98 per sq ft in September last
year to £107 per sq ft today. Occupancy costs in Birmingham have remained relatively stable with an increase of just 35p during the same period.
Mr Guest picks up the story, saying: "There will always be a shifting of positions between the regional centres, which are all pretty much on a par but, as the second city, Birmingham should be the second choice to London for relocation and inward investment.
"However, we are certainly not the most expensive at nearly a third of the cost of operating in the capital."
Of the 173 markets surveyed in the research, occupancy costs increased in 119 and decreased in only 24 in the last year.
Much of the global rental growth can be seen in Asia, led by India and China, the world's fastest-growing major economies, but Mr Guest believes that cost is not the only factor influencing occupiers' decisions to relocate.
"Many large-scale occupiers are starting to realise that the attractions of the regions are not just limited to overhead savings," he says.
"The cost of housing, access to transport and cultural amenities mean that workers can enjoy a much higher standard of living than they can in the capital."
Mr Guest does make the point, however, that the city needs a sufficient amount of ready-to-go grade A office stock in order to continue attracting big blue-chip businesses to the region.
"The good news is that over the coming months there will be a number of new schemes coming on board, most notably Baskerville House, which will start delivering product in the summer," he says.
"Other developments, such as Temple Point and Cannon House, are also scheduled for completion this year.
"With these and a number of other major schemes that are in the pipeline, coupled with the competitive occupation costs, we are in a commanding position to attract more businesses to the city and surrounding region."