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Leeds must aim higher with more tall buildings, says Freeserve entrepreneur

HIGH TIME: Leedss skyline boasts few tall buildings.

HIGH TIME: Leedss skyline boasts few tall buildings.

A great city needs great buildings, but in the absence of an iconic tower like the Shard or Eiffel, a city must have a strong brand identity.

The problem with Leeds is that it has neither, according to a leading entrepreneur.

Ajaz Ahmed called on marketing chiefs to step up their efforts ahead of 2013, a crunch year for Leeds.

He said: “Leeds has not got enough tall buildings. That’s what people remember about cities – the architecture.”

Mr Ahmed founded the first mass-market internet service provider, Freeserve, in Leeds in the late 1990s.

He said Leeds has succeeded as a city in spite of itself and the millions of pounds of public money spent on marketing.

“I don’t think anybody has done anything to market Leeds. Leeds has just got to where it’s got to because of the businesses that are based in Leeds. I can’t really see any intervention by any of the marketing organisations.

“I haven’t seen the equivalent of Welcome to Yorkshire having a positive effect on Leeds. I don’t think anybody can identify a recognisable brand for Leeds and that’s what’s missing.

“So far, I couldn’t identify a branding statement for Leeds. I can’t identify a brand position for Leeds.

“I couldn’t even tell you what the web address is for Leeds. Until last week I didn’t even know that Leeds and Partners existed. I think there’s been a lack of coordination and I’m not seeing anything to motivate me.

“I think Leeds has done well because of the great businesses that exist in Leeds. That’s a void that we need to fill very, very quickly because we have got some great cities out there, like Manchester, like Birmingham, that are not standing still.

“Manchester is doing very, very well at the moment with things like Media City. If we are not careful we are going to fall behind.”

He said those responsible for marketing the city have to start treating it like a business and create a brand identity for Leeds.

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