WHEN Vanessa Wood was offered the chance to lead the newly developed Business Central Darlington, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

That was 2015. Fast-forward three years and the business centre is now a key part of the town’s business community. Run by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), it boasts state of the art office space, a co-working facility, fitness studio and micro spa, all designed with today’s businesses in mind.

Home to 68 businesses, employing more than 200 people, the centre is now almost at full capacity

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in just three years,” says Vanessa. “It’s not often you see such rapid take-up for commercial property space, however, the fact that we’re already at full capacity shows just how attractive our offering is.”

Vanessa believes the centre’s superfast broadband has been key to attracting businesses. “There has been millions invested into Darlington over recent years, especially into infrastructure and transport improvements, and this investment is really starting to bear fruit,” she adds. “Whenever we speak to businesses, whether existing or potential tenants, they’re always impressed by what Darlington has to offer.

“It’s steeped in history and is a fantastic place to do business. It also has Teesside University on its doorstep and a rich talent pool of workers.”

Business Central has also benefited from being situated in Darlington’s only Enterprise Zone at Central Park, which is part of the Tees Valley Enterprise Zone.

The Government introduced Enterprise Zones in a bid to stimulate economic growth, with rate relief, superfast broadband and simplified planning among the benefits.

Vanessa explains: “The Central Park Enterprise Zone has already proved to be a huge success with the introduction of new housing, a higher education campus and the addition of our very own centre, Business Central.

“The town has always had a history of small businesses, whether it be in manufacturing, retail or engineering.”

Vanessa, who worked as a centre manager at various organisations before taking up the role as head of Business Central, has clear ambitions for the centre. “Businesses in Darlington now have an environment that supports positive development and growth, and Business Central is just one element of that.”

“The town has always had a great business community and we continue to focus on that aspect – whether we’re dealing with tenants, meeting room users, Open Space members or visitors – we make sure they receive great customer service.

“And as Darlington continues to develop as a commercial hub in the region, we hope to ensure our centre and future projects are key to that.”

Five minutes with... Vanessa Wood

Favourite North-East building and why?

The Wills Cigarette Factory on the New Coast Road in Newcastle city centre. I just love the art deco.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

My first job was at Burger King where I earned £2.50 per hour.

What is the worst job you’ve had?

I would have to say it was when I worked in a candle shop as I was allergic to the ingredients!

What would you cook for me if I came for dinner?

It would have to be Spaghetti Bolognese.

What would your superpower be?

To be able to fly.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

The Queen, Julie Walters, Victoria Wood and Martin Shaw.

Most expensive thing you’ve bought – other than car or house – and how much?

A games console for my son. It cost around £350.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

For me it would have to be Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) as he always sparks interaction.

Favourite book?

Birdsong, the war novel and family saga by Sebastian Faulks.

When did you last cry?

When I watched Long Lost Family.

What is your greatest achievement?

Bringing up my son on my own.

What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?

Always be true to yourself.

Favourite animal and why.

The Pangolin. Simply because they are not what they seem! They look spiky on the outside but are soft on the inside. They’re also nearly extinct.

Most famous person on your mobile phone.

My cousin Tom – he was a Hockey Coach for GB.

What was the last band you saw live?

Singer Paloma Faith.

Describe your perfect night in.

Watching Scandal on TV in my PJ’s, eating crisps and drinking Prosecco.

In another life I would be...

A nursery nurse.

Who would play you in a film of your life

Julia Roberts.

What irritates you?

People who aren’t polite.

What’s your secret talent?

I can’t tell you that as it’s a secret!