"Commercial property is a helter-skelter," says developer Nic Rumsey.

He should know. He has been riding the highs and lows of the commercial property market in Suffolk for many years. He's also behind some of the biggest warehouses the county and region has ever seen.

The latest - and biggest - is a new shed for The Range at Gateway 14 in Stowmarket which is more than a million square feet in size.

Over the last few years his business - Jaynic - based at Bury St Edmunds - has played a leading role in unlocking the logistics and commercial potential of the county.

Suffolk is home to the UK's largest container port at Felixstowe and contains vital links to the Midlands and the North via the A14 and to London and the South via the A12 - factors which helped draw the entrepreneur to the region and base his offices close to where the action is.

Nic lives in Berkshire but spends quite a bit of time in Bury St Edmunds and often stays there during the week.

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At the moment, he is juggling a number of schemes at various stages of development - among them two prime projects along the A14 in Suffolk.

He has partnered up with owners Mid Suffolk District Council to develop Gateway 14 off the trunk road at Stowmarket - a huge transformative scheme seen as a jobs and prosperity driver for the town and the region.

But as well as acting on behalf of landowners, Nic snaps up land which he feels has potential. Much of his portfolio is in Suffolk and his aim is to create schemes which will become big economic powerhouses in the region.

He is close to completing his work at Suffolk Park, a 114-acre business park by the A14 at Bury St Edmunds. It is now home to a host of big names including Skechers, Evri, Treatt, Green King, MH Starr, Unipart and Sealey - which have been drawn to the site by Jaynic.

Sometimes after land purchase he builds speculatively as in the case of some of the units at Suffolk Park - or more often after securing an occupant.

The pandemic created a huge surge of interest in warehousing space along the key A14 artery - and he has expertly ridden that wave.

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"Covid increased the demand from internet-based companies who were obviously seeing a lot more demand from people buying online because they couldn't go to the shops," he explains.

But it's not a sector for the faint-hearted. Despite the huge rise in demand, he and others in his sector had to contend with a major snag as the cost of construction spiralled.  

"There has been a long term trend of building costs going up to the extent they have doubled - building a warehouse has doubled from three years ago," he says.

"A large warehouse some time ago you could have built for £40/square foot. The same sized building (now) would be £80/sq ft."

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Although more recently these costs have started to plateau other factors have continued to dog the sector.

Chief among them is the cost of borrowing. "You had to factor in quite a lot of inflation. Then obviously interest rates three years ago have gone up from 3% to 10%," he says.

This has hit investment yields - and the knock-on effect is the value of buildings has also reduced.

"It means it's difficult to do deals because there's less fat in the overall project. You put all these factors into a development appraisal. It impacts on either the profit or the land value," he explained.

Gateway 14 is one of Jaynic's flagship projects. Council-owned, it had to pull its weight and deliver for residents.

Jaynic's brief having got planning consent for the various parts of the park was to try and secure deals.

At the same time the developer had to organise the road, wire and pipe infrastructure on the 1.7 million sq ft site, which is earmarked for research and development facilities, offices, light industrial and general industrial units and distribution units.

But its crowning achievement was securing homewares retailer The Range as the project's anchor occupant.

"Where we were very lucky - but also worked hard on it - was identifying The Range," says Nic.

"We agreed to sell them a finished building at a price that allows the council to get all their money back."

The Range - unveiled this week - occupies 58 acres of the site and is the lynchpin for the entire project. It is a huge building - measuring some 1,172,000 sq ft.

"It's a very big moment," he says. "Doing The Range puts the project completely in the black. What that means is the remaining 70-acre site there is fully serviced but there no debt on the land."

Once open, the multi-million pound facility will work on a three shift system operating 24 hour days and with a total workforce of around 1650 people.

"When we first got involved Gateway 14 had all these key performance indicators - and one was they would create 1700 jobs from the whole the whole site.

"Our brief was to pull together the master plan," he said. "The beauty of this is the scale of the deal squares it all off."

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Nic is still in the midst of trying to seal deals for the Gateway 14 and other sites. He has to deal with setbacks - recently Copart withdrew from a proposed site at a former RAF airfield at Shepherd’s Grove at Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds - but he ploughs on.

Having spent so much time and effort working up the planning application for the Stanton Business Park, he was "naturally disappointed" when Copart withdrew from the scheme recently as the planning process dragged on. 

The used car giant would have occupied three-quarters of the 37-hectare development for the storage, distribution and processing of accident-damaged and non-damaged motor vehicles - providing up to 90 full-time jobs.

But he remains committed to developing the park, he says. "It is vital that the hybrid planning application that is currently being considered by West Suffolk Council is granted planning consent at the council’s December planning committee meeting.

“This will enable us to move forward in building a roundabout on the A143, providing access to the site and most importantly providing an alternative and direct connection from the A143 for the businesses at Shepherds Grove West industrial estate.

"This will help provide relief to Stanton from the commercial and HGV traffic that currently routes through the village, and this has just been given the support of Stanton Parish Council.”

His worst moment was probably the financial crash of 2008 which took down many big-hitters in his sector.

He was at that point working with a partner and they had been up a portfolio worth about £300m until the crash. It was "horrible" but they managed to survive - unlike many of their fellow developers.

Nic's first foray into Suffolk was in 2012 when he got involved in a project in Haverhill. Out of that came the 30,000 sq ft EpiCentre business centre at Haverhill which he still owns, a pub site, housing land sold to Taylor Wimpey - and a hotel which he owned for 10 years but has since sold on.

Other Jaynic sites include 25 acres at Fornham Road, Bury St Edmunds, and a half share of a 69-ace freehold site at Barretts Lane, Needham Market, which it co-owns with East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) and is working to promote as land for residential development.

The company is also involved in a 270-acre site at Rougham Hill, Bury St Edmunds, and an old Karro Food site covering 20 acres at Little Wratting, Haverhill.

Nic is always keen to hear from farmers and landowners with plots close to an arterial road or a settlement. At the other end of the spectrum, he is attracting companies in search of a home.

"You are always talking to five to 10 companies, " he says.

But the sector now faces headwinds. "It's slowing down. There are two buildings at Orwell Crossing that have been up for about a year still empty.

"When we built units speculatively at Suffolk Park they went quite quickly ."

But he predicts that Gateway 14 will continue to be successful "because it's incredibly well located but also it's a freeport tax site", he says. 

This means significant benefits to prospective occupants. "It's a prime property location," he says. 

When he first became involved in Suffolk Park there was a perception that it was too far east of Cambridge to be "institutionally acceptable". That perception - in just a few years - has changed radically.

"We were the first to develop speculatively in the last 50 years," he says.

"Obviously property development has its risks and if you are lucky you remove that risk by having an occupier before you build something."

It's a cyclical business, he acknowledges. "You have just got to ride the cycle - and there always is a cycle - but you don't want to be left with the tide going out."

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