For those in the know, you can't mention Sunderland and the IT industry in the same breath without referring to the Leighton Group.
It has been the sector's trail-blazer for the last twenty-five years and, although now an international organisation, the group remains a dominant force in Sunderland. They have what group chairman Paul Callaghan, calls: "global reach, local presence".
Leighton Group began life in the seventies as a business publishing company, moved into the IT and computing sector and set up a business that became domainnames.com. This went on to become the biggest dot.com registrar in the UK within three years.
In those days the company felt that being in Sunderland could have been seen as a disadvantage, but the example being set by accountancy software giant Sage a few miles up the road in Newcastle showed that it was possible to run a global company from the North East. Paul Callaghan describes the 1990s as the 'gold rush era' and says that Sage was his 'biggest role model'. If they could do it, he knew he could too.
Fast forward to today and the Leighton Group has grown a series of companies in the technology sector that operate world-wide. There’s e-commerce software firm SaleCycle, web conferencing business WorkCast, and Leighton, the North East's most successful web agency.
Paul Callaghan sums it up, saying: "We had the ideas and we needed the right location and the right people. Working with partners in Sunderland has created a landscape where we could succeed, but it's also created a foundation for the next generation of tech companies. Sunderland has grown into its role as a hotbed of software development."