Ten years after starting Urban Splash in the pit of the 1990s recession, Tom Bloxham has played a large part in making inner-city living sexy, stylish and affordable. The company started in Manchester and quickly made a name for producing aspirational living space. However, the really impressive part of the Bloxham story is how the company took the formula of well-designed inner city apartments and broadened it. One example is its project to turn a textile mill at Ancoats in Manchester into affordable office space. The result has been an enviable financial performance: the firm's margin is more than 20% and rising rapidly, it completed more than £50m of work in 2001 and the figure will be double for 2002. Urban Splash has been as big a success with the critics as with the bankers: the firm won an astonishing 18 awards last year.
'Bloxham's chutzpah in redeveloping old schools and factories, and hiring brilliant young designers to do it, stood out'
2nd - Paul Thwaites, Ashwell Property Group
Paul Thwaites started out with a £2m stake in 1998, when he won a PFI contract with the Ministry of Defence to build homes for the US Airforce in East Anglia. He has since turned that into £250m and Ashwell Property Group now has a landbank of about 10,000 plots with a planning value of more than £2bn. The aim now is to build a company worth £500m by 2006. In the 2007 awards we will probably be telling you what happened next …
'You can't argue with his numbers, which are simply astounding … Who knows how far he can go?'
3rd - Steve Hindley, Midas Group
The story of Steve Hindley and his aptly named Midas Group began four years ago, with the buy-in of a bog standard regional contractor. Hindley turned the contractor into a full property services group organised in specialist divisions and customer teams, and signed a number of long-term partnership deals with blue-chip clients. In the past year, turnover has risen 53% and profit 66%, and the group is now on course to reach its target of £143m turnover in 2003.
'He's taken a jobbing medium-sized contractor and turned it into a sophisticated, 21st-century property services group'
4th - Cadweb
Cadweb has survived the dotcom carnage; that alone is a testament to its services and business models. This firm provides an online system for originating, verifying and exchanging electronic documents. In December 2002 alone, the equivalent of a pile of paper more than 1 km high was exchanged using the system. As one of the few certain things about the future is that more and more projects will be administered using extranets, that future looks bright for Cadweb.
'It has created the industry's leading project extranet, and cemented its position by establishing an impressive portfolio of blue-chip clients'
Building Awards 2003
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Entrepreneur of the Year