The beginning of May this year marks a milestone for MMI Holdings as it takes occupation of its new R306 million KwaZulu-Natal regional headquarters. The milestone is equally significant to Tongaat Hulett Developments as the new building adds to the body of evidence that KwaZulu-Natal’s most ambitious mixed-use property project is booming.
This project is the Cornubia development adjacent to Umhlanga, where MMI’s nearly 13,000m2 flagship building stands out as testament to a bold vision. A vision shared by Tongaat Hulett and the eThekwini municipality to reshape the business and economic landscape of the area.
“It’s always gratifying when the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place and you can see that bigger picture emerging,” says Mtura Matshini, Development Executive of Tongaat Hulett Developments. “The picture, in this instance, has been filled out quite significantly by MMI’s investment in Cornubia”.
“We believe the vote of confidence by MMI to locate their office here will encourage other business leaders to follow suit.”
Many businesses are starting to recognise the value of locating Business Process Outsourcing operations at Cornubia. Factors that make it attractive include proximity to major transport hubs and logistics networks, the ease of access to employees from the immediate vicinity and that it alleviates pressure on congested centres like Durban and Umhlanga.
Access to Cornubia is being enhanced by the roll out of the GO!Durban integrated rapid public transport network while the largest skilled workforce in South Africa offers a local labour force of 1.61 million with a literacy rate of 84.3%. In addition, accent neutrality means a work force suited to BPO.
The eThekwini Municipality has committed R6 million to the KZN branch of national body Business Process Enabling South Africa for skills growth and small business development and unlocking transport and other infrastructure to support the sector over the next three years. The Municipality has also launched a one-stop-shop with a specific focus on BPO investors, to ease business applications and processes, thus accelerating the pace of growth and investment in the region.
Stephen Lawson, Development Manager for Eris Property Group which managed the development of the MMI building, says the location of the site was a big factor in selecting it over other candidates.
“We had a look at various sites in and around Durban, but given Cornubia’s location and that many staff are from the Umhlanga, Phoenix and KwaMashu area it made sense for MMI to locate their offices here,” he explains. “Also, the public transport routes that run through the precinct made it an obvious choice.”
One of the main reasons for building the new regional headquarters is the ability to consolidate the accommodation for the more than 800 employees. Staff from its Metropolitan Life, Metropolitan Health and Momentum Health subsidiaries currently occupy a number of different buildings in nearby Umhlanga.
Lawson says consolidating all staff under one roof is more cost effective. He also sees MMI’s ownership of property as beneficial as this allows it to participate in decisions due to its seat on the private management association.
“The rapid pace at which new tenants are taking up space at Cornubia is testament to the appeal of the development to organisations of all descriptions,” Matshini says. “From consumer-focused developments like the Cornubia Mall to the 100,000m2 logistics park at the adjoining N2 Business Estate, the development’s appeal is palpable.”