A Lobbying Opportunity for Digital Agencies
During the process of creating and developing an online community of Creative Agencies, as we have recently at http://siliconjunction.co.uk/, we find ourselves frequently presented with new opportunities to better represent that community – often in ways we hadn’t previously anticipated.
One of these opportunities is lobbying.
Agencies have already found themselves lobbying for obvious desirables such as faster and more robust connectivity and broadband, but at Silicon Junction we find ourselves in the midst of firms with far more pressing concerns.
Despite much debate focusing on access to high-speed broadband, most of us in the Wandsworth area have been able to source a workable broadband solution. What seems far more pressing, to an agency such as ours (http://www.3bweb.com) at least, are issues surrounding premises and staffing.
Premises are an issue that will continue to dog any growing company – not just a digital agency. However new media companies are, I would suggest, far more exposed to the leasing minefield than most simply because of their inherent speed of growth and the flexible staffing strategy that they are often forced to adopt. As things stand the standard leasing terms require that a new or growing agency of any size must source offices with a seriously long-term view.
Finding suitable offices at acceptable rent isn’t really the problem – it’s the fact that small companies find themselves having to commit to small spaces that prohibit growth or to large spaces that they hope to grow into.
Staffing of overseas talent presents another complex set of problems. The simple fact is that, as things stand, a great deal of the affordable talent pool is populated with developers and designers from overseas – very often from beyond the EU.
We at 3B are having to register as work visa sponsors simply in order to apply to hang onto key staff members – mostly because we consider them to be indispensable to our quality offering, but also because they’ve become family; we feel we ought to show them the same commitment and loyalty they’ve shown us.
These are the two issues of concern that I believe can most readily be addressed by local Government under the new freedoms the Localism Bill is providing. I believe that successful lobbying on behalf of those local agencies that share these concerns might just spur local authorities to commit to a proactive policy in these key areas.
In areas like Wandsworth there is a wealth of prime council-owned premises ripe for (minimalist) development that can be made available on short-term flexible contracts. We’re not looking for the standard shared-premises solutions but self-contained and presentable offices where a tenant can feel invested and at-home for as long as the space suits.
Moreover it seems to me that the hoops we’re having to jump through to achieve sponsors’ status with regards our visa issues might be eased somewhat with a liberal application of the immigration rules when dealing with our industry sector. I accept that this is fundamentally a national government issue, but I foresee an opportunity for The Greater London Authority to zone specific areas of the capital with regards staffing from overseas talent pools.
We note with interest the lobbying efforts made on behalf of the “Tech City” initiative in East London, and know from recent comments made by the Mayor’s Advisor for Environment and Digital that he sees projects across London (like Silicon Junction) as opportunities to help establish the City as the Digital Capital of Europe. We feel very strongly that this title is still very much “up for grabs” – now let’s make it happen!
Our own agency has long since outgrown the need for short-term office space, and we’re well ensconced in the process of the visa sponsor application. But we do identify these key matters as having troubled us enormously in the past, and when Wandsworth recently solicited 3B Digital Director Jack Bremer for his opinion as regards how a local authority might best help and serve a local community of creative agencies, it was these issues he immediately cited.
We at Silicon Junction very much hope that in the coming months – in the run-up to our official “launch” in September – we might garner the support and backing of our own local authority and truly create a Tech-hub of creative agencies worthy of this particularly exciting part of London.
For more information on the Silicon Junction project please visit us at: http://siliconjunction.co.uk/.
Alex Bremer is Director of 3B Digital Ltd