$85 Million Quantex Expansion Will Add 1,000 UK Jobs
After less than two years at its European headquarters location in the UK, U.S.-based computer manufacturer Quantex (www.quantex.com) is dramatically expanding its operations in the city of Stevenage, located some 35 miles (48 km.) north of central London. Quantex's UK expansion will involve a capital expenditure of US$85 million and will create 1,000 new jobs.
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Somerset, N.J., Quantex is undertaking the major expansion to fuel its aggressive extension to extend into Europe, say company officials. Quantex is augmenting its export operations into Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The company hopes in the near term to export 15 percent to 20 percent of its UK-produced computers to markets on the European continent, Quantex officials explained.
To facilitate that move on the continental market, the company hopes to have the manufacturing expansion, which will add some 950,000 sq. ft. (85,500 sq. m.) of new floor space, up and running within 12 months.
As of this writing, however, Quantex hadn't settled on a specific location for its expansion. That, though, shouldn't delay the project, according to Quantex officials. The Stevenage area's popularity as a business location has produced a large supply of appropriate space, and the company is considering a number of existing facilities, Quantex officials say.
Somewhat surprisingly, Quantex didn't seek any location incentives to fund its major expansion. It didn't need them, a company spokesman explained. And one top official with Quantex Europe added that the company found accepting incentives "too constraining."
Instead of incentives, Quantex executives cited a number of other major location factors in their expansion decision. Among the site selection factors that were mentioned by company executives were the Stevenage area's entrenched technology cluster, its skilled work-force availability, its strong infrastructure and its high-quality primary and secondary educational networks.
Although its population numbers only an estimated 77,000, Stevenage has proved to be a corporate stronghold for finding both quality workers and a wealth of business space. The area is home to more than 1,500 businesses, with a particularly strong representation in technology-intensive sectors like aerospace, computers, engineering, electronics and pharmaceuticals. Financial services make up another strong component of the Stevenage area's economy.
In addition to Quantex, major corporations with substantial operations in Stevenage include Dixon's Mastercare, Du Pont (UK), Glaxo Wellcome, IBM, ICL, Marconi Instruments, Matra BAe Dynamics and MMS Space Systems.
Quantum's major expansion marks another in a long series of economic wins for the first English "new town." The new towns have played a significant role in altering location strategies in the UK.
At their inception, though, many wondered how successful they would be.
The new towns were recommended in 1944's "Greater London Plan." That plan proposed creating a ring of satellite towns to ease the housing and overcrowding in post-World War II London. The new town concept was designed to provide self-contained communities that would offer residents homes, work and recreation - an early precursor of many of the many work/play communities that have sprung up, often in non-metro locations, in the latter part of the 20th century.
On Aug. 1, 1946, The New Towns' Act became law. Many British officials viewed Stevenage as the ideal site for implementing the new concept, and the area was designated as Britain's first new town on Nov. 11, 1946.
"Stevenage will in a short time, become world famous,' said Lewis Silkin, minister for town and country planning. "People from all over the world will come to Stevenage to see how we here in this country are building for the new way of life." For many, though, the new town marked a jarring change from Stevenage's historically rural roots. Author E.M. Forster, for example, spent much of his childhood in a Stevenage house that's the model for the novel "Howard's End." Even in the mid-1940s, Stevenage had only 6,000 residents, many of them jealously protective of the area's 3,000 acres (1,200 ha.) of open agricultural land.
Unsurprisingly, the new town notion didn't sound so swell to many of the Stevenage locals. A citizens' group, in fact, fought the new town designation all the way to the House of Lords before losing.
Today, those rural roots have been replaced by a singularly successfully business location. Stevenage in particular boasts a strong, sophisticated infrastructure to support business facilities.
For example, fiber optic cable services, digital, satellite, and video-conferencing networks serve Stevenage. Likely even more impressive to many expanding companies are the area's transportation links. The town is located at the heart of the nation's highway network, and rail connections are also strong.
Both Stansted and Luton Airports, for example, are within 25 minutes' driving time, and Heathrow is just 45 miles (72 km.) away by train. And 20-minute train journey to King's Cross puts Stevenage in touch with major UK and European cities via the Channel tunnel ("the Chunnel").
In addition, Stevenage is the only town in the Hertfordshire region with direct inter-city services to Peterborough, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The New Stevenage has a number of distinct features, included its color-coded districts, which are still used today for directions. Nonetheless, colorful touches of a different sort remain that recall the old Stevenage.
The Twin Foxes public house built in 1953, for example, is named Ebenezer and Albert Fox. The Fox brothers, it turns out, were identical twins. They were also serial poachers, who, local legend has it, were always able to escape from their frequent encounters with the constabulary by providing alibis for each other.
Quantex, apparently, feels that Stevenage needs no alibis when it comes to location pluses.