Luton’s robust economy and job market attracts international investment Luton has adapted from a reliance on the car industry and manufacturing to a strong, balanced economy. Complementing the operations at Vauxhall are research and development at firms such as Selex Galileo (BAe Systems) and AstraZeneca, as well as a strong service sector, including household names such as Ernst Young and Europe’s leading travel group, TUI. The resurgence of Luton as an economic centre has resulted in significant wealth creation so that the average salary now paid in Luton is above the national average. Luton competes on the UK and international stages as a place to invest. Northern and Shell, owners of the Daily Express, announced in January 2011 that they are moving their print and editorial operations to Luton, creating up to 900 new jobs. The acquisition of London Luton Airport in 2005 by Spanish giants Aena and Abertis is evidence of Luton’s global appeal. So significant is the airport as an economic asset that easyJet, which established and headquartered itself here in 1995, has grown to become the tenth largest airline in the world. Luton has become an employment hub. Over 40 per cent of jobs based here and 50 percent at the airport are held by those who live outside of the town, in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and London. Commuters to Luton more often than not enjoy above average salaries. 

Luton’s declining manufacturing base required Luton to diversify. The private sector took the lead in developing Capability Green, a new business park at the edge of the Luton Hoo estate, which helped to attract high-quality blue chip companies such as Selex Galileo (BAe Systems), AstraZeneca, Ernst & Young and the new headquarters of Thomson (TUI) at nearby Wigmore. In a similar manner to the New Industries Committee before it, Luton Borough Council led other private sector initiatives to help develop the Butterfield Business and Technology Park which has attracted over 100 new high-tech knowledge-based start-ups.

Luton’s national and international transport links, vibrant communities, skilled workforce, close proximity to markets and a proactive local authority mean that it has scored significant economic successes. Most recently, the announcement in January 2011 that Northern and Shell, Daily Expressowners, will invest £100m in a new print works, creating up to 900 new jobs.

Luton’s biggest economic asset is London Luton Airport. Its nine million passengers a year make it the UK’s fifth busiest airport after Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester. Land was bought in 1936 for an airport, becoming a base for the RAF during the War. Returning to civilian operations in 1952, the airport expanded as package holidays boomed and by 1969 a fifth of all holiday flights from the UK departed from Luton.

The new terminal building, designed by Foster and Partners and opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1999, increased passenger numbers dramatically. The airport’s compact nature, short taxiways and excellent public transport links make it highly environmentally sustainable in comparison to other airports. Without having to build any new runways, London Luton Airport has significant scope to expand to handle a further 20 million passengers a year. The airport site is already the largest employer in Luton, and with each additional million people that the airport handles, around 1,000 new jobs are created, underlining its importance to Luton’s economy and that of the surrounding region.

This fact was underlined by the Royal Mail’s 2008 Business Barometer which showed that Luton rose 27 places to come sixth for business growth compared to all other towns and cities across the country, beating the likes of Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, and local rivals such as Milton Keynes and Reading. 

Luton’s confidence in its local economy and its ability to create new jobs are shown by official estimates. In March 2010, the now defunct East of England Regional Assembly published the East of England Plan > 2031 . This stated that it expected total employment in Luton to rise by 16% to over 100,000 jobs by 2031.5Such an increase in jobs would not only support projections for Luton’s increasing population, but also provide additional employment to Luton’s large economic hinterland, underlying its characteristic as a city.

The town centre features a premier indoor shopping centre, The Mall, which attracts more than 20 million shoppers a year to its many popular high street and independent stores. Luton is also home to a first-class educational establishment, the University of Bedfordshire, and a top-class healthcare facility, the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, which looks after much of the surrounding region.

Luton is a major regional employer. As one of the most important areas in the South-East for business and commerce, it not only provides a significant level of employment for the surrounding region but also plays a big role in the national economy. Several major national and multi-national companies have chosen to join us, including Astra Zeneca, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, Selex, whose research headquarters are at Capability Green, and travel giant Tui, as well as airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, to name but a few. Vauxhall Motors maintains its longstanding presence in Luton, with its UK headquarters and a European customer care centre, and the town is still General Motors’ UK centre for commercial vehicles.

Luton’s successes are based on many examples of communities, public services and business working together in partnership, with tangible success. Educational achievement is continuing to rise, with many schools winning praise from Ofsted inspectors, and some featuring in the Government’s prestigious annual list of top performers. Luton is also creating 13 new or remodelled secondary schools under the £280 million Building Schools for the Future project, which is also delivering the £25 million Luton Aquatic Centre, with a 50-metre, Olympic-size swimming pool, plus 450 social housing units, health facilities in partnership with Luton PCT and other community facilities, one of the most ambitious programmes in the country.

Luton Borough Council is committed to getting the best for the town, and has helped to attract more than £100 million in regeneration and community development grants over the last ten years to support and encourage local industry and commerce. All told, by 2012, around £4 billion will have been invested in a wide range of capital projects, the largest for any UK town, creating more than 3,000 new jobs.


With thanks to our Love Luton partners: 

Arriva; A Thin Place; Barnfield College; British Land;  easyJet; FCC Environment; Gulfstream; Heart FM;  Keepmoat;  London Luton Airport; Luton Borough Council; Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa;  Luton on Sunday; The Mall; Signature Flight Support; University of Bedfordshire; Vauxhall Motors; VolkerFitzpatrick and  VolkerHighways.