Almost £3billion has been invested into Sunderland’s economy in the last decade, new figures have shown.
City leaders say that 250 projects have created 17,000 jobs in the area, with the software industry in particular attracting interest from Asia and America.
The news comes as it was also revealed that the numbers of firms using £9million Sunderland Software Centre as a base has jumped by almost a third in the past year.
A total of 24 firms now use the Tavistock Place building as their home.
The industry was today described as a “key contributor” to the city’s economy, with more than 1,000 now working in the sector in Sunderland.
Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader at Sunderland City Council, said: “Nearly half (49%) of the Sunderland Software Centre is now occupied, compared to nearly a third (27%) a year ago.
“As a long-term project its occupancy levels are increasing and companies based within the centre are expanding.
“It has become a popular venue for IT and hi-tech themed events, such as the Nissan data challenge and the recent launch of the Drupal Hub, and it enjoys Digital Hub status.
“The centre complements Sunderland’s growing reputation for software and IT with more than 1,000 people already employed in this sector.
“Anticipating and recognising further growth, earlier this year the council supported the opening of the region’s first IT apprentice hub at the centre.
“Alongside similar premises across the city, such as Evolve or Washington Business Centre, the centre is part of the city council’s longer-term strategic plan and vision for continued economic growth.
Coun Trueman added: “Over the past five years, there have been nearly 200 strategic projects, creating more than 8,800 jobs and bringing nearly £1.3billion of investment to Sunderland.
“For the past 10 years, the figures are 250 strategic projects, with 17,000 jobs and investment of £2.8billion.”
“The council is also fully committed to its long-term vision of growing a sustainable software sector.
“There are numerous examples of software companies which have moved to the city, some from abroad, precisely because of the support available from the council.”
Gary Hutchinson, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Sunderland branch and Sunderland Business Group, said: “The software sector has become a major employer and a key contributor to our economy over recent years and is going from strength to strength.
“Software and digital is a huge global growth area and there is massive potential for us to grow this further, with Sunderland yet again leading the way for the region in these sectors.
“Sunderland Software City and associated partners involved are working hard together to make our mark globally and are attracting business from as far as Asia and America – long may it continue and the NECC and Sunderland business group fully support this.”
Ken Dunbar, of Sunderland’s Business Improvement District, said that the continued growth of the sector can only be a good thing for trade in the city centre.
“From my perspective, the more and more businesses that want to spend their time in the city centre the better,” he said.
“It creates a cafe culture and more interest in our night-time economy.
“It’s absolutely critical now that the skills base in this area continues to grow.
“Not only do we want to see the Software Centre fully utilised, but there are all sorts of other spaces around the city to enable this growth.
More work is needed to boost the number of businesses in place at Software Centre, a city politician has said.
There are now 24 businesses operating from the site, but Coun Peter Wood, Conservative group deputy leader on Sunderland City Council, said officials had been “misled” as to how quickly Software City, which opened in 2012, would fill up with firms.
Coun Wood said: “I’m disappointed that the centre is only half-full.
“The trend is clearly upwards so that is encouraging, but I think the question is how long is it going to take to fill the building and what is the council doing to accelerate that?
“This is an important facility for the city and we need to be making sure that we make full use of it.”
Coun Wood added that although council members were supportive of the proposals to create the centre, they expected more businesses to be using the site as their home by now.
“I think we were misled with some optimistic predictions as to how quickly it would be filled.
“The reality is somewhat different.
“It’s encouraging that there are more businesses there, but until it is near 100 per cent then obviously we need to do more to boost its availability.”