This is the first in a series of blogs from leading business people in Exeter, talking about their careers, their aspirations and why they choose to live and work in Exeter and the sub-region.
Read the first 'Why Exeter?' blog from Karime Hassan of Chief Executive of Exeter City Council.
Name: Karime Hassan
Job Title: Chief Executive
Organisation: Exeter City Council
No of employees: 685
What makes Exeter and the sub-region special / interesting to you personally?
Exeter is a compact city with a good business network but small enough to get things done, with a number of world class institutions that provide an interesting business mix. The University and the Met Office have shaped a new business agenda for the city – giving us something extra to what was already a very strong financial, legal and professional services sector. The emergence of an innovation and research agenda is making for an exciting future. Exeter delivers for the wider Devon economy.
How long has Exeter been your base? When did you come to East Devon and what made you move her?
I moved to Exeter in 1999 and worked for close on 10 years as a Director in East Devon District Council, where I gained a good understanding of the inter-relationship of town and country. The quality of the environment was a big draw. I was struck by the clarity of vision for the city that this was a place that wanted to go somewhere and I wanted to be part of that journey.
What is your vision for Exeter over the next few years?
We are at the cusp of transferring into a knowledge economy. I want to see Exeter capitalise on the infrastructure investment made over the last decade; for Exeter to be seen as the hub of innovation on an international level. The regeneration of the new leisure quarter will further strengthen Exeter city centre as a more active and healthy place.
What do you consider the biggest achievements in the city over the last few years? Is there a link between the locality and these achievements?
Undoubtedly the biggest achievements have been based on the continued success of the University, Exeter College, the attraction of the Met Office to the city, the redevelopment of Princesshay, the strategic investment in infrastructure, such as Cranbrook and the Science Park, to meet the housing and employment needs of the city long term. The continued expansion of our legal firms, such as Michelmores, Ashfords, etc. Success has been built on a lot of good work, strong leadership by public and private sectors all working together. I don’t underestimate the contributions made by individuals like Sir Steve Smith. The emergence of Exeter Chiefs as a premiership force has done wonders for the image of the city.
How do you see the Exeter developing? What do you think are the opportunities and challenges for Exeter?
Philip Letts, Chair of blur Group, has been quoted as saying Exeter could be the San Francisco of Europe i.e. Silicon Valley. The investment in the Met Office supercomputer and the development of big data is an exciting opportunity for the city. Collaboration around big data and environmental futures is probably an area where the city can show global leadership. Health research is also a considerable strength. Capitalising on world class research is our biggest opportunity. The biggest challenge is for the rest of Devon to benefit from the growth in productivity that is occurring in Exeter and then managing the demands of growth in terms of transport and safeguarding the character of the landscape that we value so highly.
How do you work with other businesses and organisations locally?
The Chamber of Commerce does a great job in the city in supporting the business network and allowing the local authority to speak to business as a group. I pride myself in being accessible to business. The City Council as a whole is supportive of business and understands the value of a successful economy. This has meant strong political stewardship over the years.
What do you do in your down-time?
Watch rugby, football, eat out in the city and crash out in front of the TV. If I am lucky I get to spend some time with my girls.
Any stand-out anecdotes?!
The managing director of the John Lewis Partnership said at the opening of the new store that he has never had, from any city, the level of support he has had from Exeter. At the height of the recession it was a big boost to the city's economy.