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‘I’m no workaholic,’ says man with key role in Suffolk Park

Nic Rumsey working
Nic Rumsey working

Would Nic Rumsey call himself an entrepreneur? Probably not. He prefers businessman.

But his record as a major player in prestigious developments has brought him a role with huge influence on the future of business in West Suffolk.

aerial view of Suffolk Park site, Bury st edmunds (photo Sealand Aerial Photography)
aerial view of Suffolk Park site, Bury st edmunds (photo Sealand Aerial Photography)

Suffolk Park in Bury St Edmunds will include up to two million square feet of commercial space and create thousands of jobs.

And Nic is the man who must make it happen, after his family firm Jaynic was appointed development promoter for the 114-acre business area.

It is not the company’s only West Suffolk interest. Haverhill Research Park is another of its current projects, along with a 125-homes site at Red Lodge.

But there was a time Nic seriously doubted if property was the career for him.

Nic Rumsey hiking with friends in the south downs
Nic Rumsey hiking with friends in the south downs

It took him several years to find his niche.

He was born in London where his mother’s family had been in the meat business at Smithfield market for six generations.

His family moved to Essex when he was three, first Chelmsford, then Braintree where his father still lives.

At school his ambition was to make money, and he has – and lost some, and made more.

His fortunes have gone up and down, battered by recessions, reaping the benefit when the upturn came.

“At school I knew I wanted to make money but never knew how I was going to do it,” he says.

“I got into property by accident. In 6th form I was getting fed up with studying so I asked the careers officer what jobs they could recommend.

“They suggested estate agency. By chance, in our local paper there was an advert for a trainee negotiator.

“I applied and was offered a job – but they were much more sensible than me.

“They said, come in on Saturdays, finish your A levels, and then come and work for us.

“After three months there I was enjoying it, but realised I faced a long haul to get anywhere.”

Cue another chat with the careers advisor. As a result he applied for a place at Leicester Polytechnic and trained as a chartered surveyor.

But he found it hard to settle and was soon doubting if he had made the right choice.

Nevertheless, he stuck to it and qualified, although he is frank about his reasons. “I liked the social life and wanted to stay for that.”

When he left college it was a while before he made any use of his training.

“I did a series of dead end jobs, then thought I might as well do one for which I’m qualified.

“It took me ages to get a job, then after three months I was made redundant.”

But he left with a good reference and was taken on by a firm of development consultants and letting agents.

“They managed property and I learnt a lot from them.”

At last things were falling into place. He was head-hunted twice then in 1993, aged 33, he left to set up his own business.

Rumsey and Partners was an in-house developer for clients with land.

Its biggest project was an open cast coal mine in Warwickshire which was transformed into a business park.

He also developed offices in Basildon that were sold to Essex police.

In 1995, Nic founded Carisbrooke Investments. Collaborations included buying old gravel workings that became Cambridge Research Park, netting him and his partners a total profit of £20 million.

Haverhill Business Park and the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park at the University of Essex were also among the firm’s East Anglian developments.

Nic set up Jaynic to focus on land promotion for residential and commercial development, which he describes as providing the “uplift”.

The company’s title is made up of his name, preceded by the first three letters of his wife Jayne’s. “It’s a bit twee,” he says, “she hates it.”

Jaynic is owned by Nic, Jayne, and their son Max, 18, who is still at school doing A levels in politics, English and theology. “He’s much better at studying than I was,” Nic says with pride.

The family lives in Berkshire. Keen horsewoman Jayne, who Nic met in 1994, runs an art gallery in Woodstock near Oxford.

Jaynic has already sold a major site at Haverhill Research Park for executive housing. which has been developed together with a pub and nursery.

There is also consent for 450,000 sq ft of business space and a hotel. It is within Cambridge Compass Enterprise Zone bringing benefits like five years of business rates discounts.

The firm won its Suffolk Park role last summer and early this year sold a 10-acre plot to local manufacturer Treatt.

In April, outline consent was granted for up to two million sq ft of business, distribution and industrial space on the rest of the site.

“My job is very exciting because you are creating something, and very satisfying when you do a deal with an occupier and watch the building go up,” said Nic.

He freely admits that in the past not everything has gone to plan, with losses as well as gains. “But we’re no longer working for the bank,” he says.

“I’m a bit of a risk taker in business. Not so much personally. I mean I don’t gamble or bet on the Grand National.”

He does like to ski though, at what he describes as an intermediate level.

Some might think that is a reasonably risky pastime – physically if not financially.

“I’m affectionately known as the black barrel because of my size and the fact I roll over quite a lot,” he says.

Warming to the subject, he adds that in his black ski suit he looks “as if the Milk Tray man has eaten all the chocolates”.

Recently he has taken up hiking with a group of friends, and has sealed his commitment by investing in new boots.

“It’s something I’d like to do more. It’s good exercise, and as I get older I appreciate the countryside more and more.

“You spend time with people you really like, and usually interrupt it with a nice pub lunch.”

Has he ever been a workaholic? He considers carefully. “Not really, not now anyway.

“I’m quite focused and work is a very significant part of my life.

“But I’m aware there are other things in life – I don’t want to be the richest corpse in the cemetery.

“Work life balance is increasingly important to me. My office is next door to my home – I can work no hours a day, or 20.”

He also enjoys cinema and theatre. “I do quite like children’s films written with parents in mind, like Toy Story.”

So, with his very impressive CV, what does he count as his greatest achievement?

Not the slightest hesitation on this one. “My son,” he says.