IT can be hard to avoid feeling despondent about the state of Glasgow.

Walk through the streets of the city centre and the aftermath of Covid is clear to see. The litany of vacant units and empty offices bear vivid testimony to a place ravaged not just by the fall-out from the pandemic, but structural economic change. It is, quite simply, no longer the mighty city it once was.

Yet perhaps this assessment does Glasgow an injustice. A recent interview with Lori Beer, global chief technology officer of JPMorgan Chase, helped form the impression that the city may not be on a one-way ticket to economic despair after all.

Speaking on a visit to the US investment bank’s bustling office on Waterloo Street, Ms Beer could scarcely have been more emphatic about the importance of Glasgow to its global operations.

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Having had a presence in Glasgow’s international financial services district for more than 20 years, the New York-based institution now employs more than 2,200 people at the base, which plays a key role for the bank as a global technical centre. And JPMorgan Chase is looking to build on that further still, with the bank preparing to switch to a brand-new office on Argyle Street that will have the capacity to accommodate 2,500 members of staff.

The new, 13-storey office is under construction and is expected to open at some stage in 2023.

Ms Beer told The Herald: “Across the globe, there is a lot of competition for tech talent. I think the pandemic only further emphasised that because everyone is trying to digitise things faster.

“The good thing I feel is that, even through that, we have grown our talent here. We have been on a continuous growth [trajectory] and we expect to continue to grow our tech talent. The new building actually gives us even more space to grow our tech talent.

“I think that is just a strong message of the value creation we see coming out of this location.”

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That such a significant international business as JPMorgan Chase is so committed to Glasgow is a major deal for a city that remains punch drunk from the many blows dealt by Covid. It is also a big vote of confidence in the people of Glasgow and surrounding areas, who are now holding skilled and influential positions within JPMorgan Chase in the city.

Moreover, with people spending more of their working weeks in offices again, it is surely good for the vibrancy of the businesses that feed off major hubs such as the bank’s Waterloo Street base.

Fortunately for Glasgow, other major financial institutions have seen fit to base large operations in the city. These include fellow American giant Morgan Stanley, which employs around 1,600 people in the city, and Barclays, which in recent years has developed a major new campus on the south side of the river.

Then there are the significant companies and institutions that have committed to space at 177 Bothwell Street, the new Grade A office space which has attracted tenants such as Virgin Money, BNP Paribas, AECOM, CBRE and, as of yesterday, wealth manager Evelyn Partners. HFD Group, the Scottish property company, sold the building for around £215 million in April, the value of the deal itself an endorsement of the city.

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The owner of Buchanan Galleries meanwhile is preparing for a very different future for Glasgow city centre. Land Securities generated controversy earlier this year when it revealed plans to tear down a shopping centre that has only been standing for 20 years, and replace it with a mixed-use urban environment, comprising homes, offices, hospitality outlets, a hotel, and shops.

While the project raised eyebrows when it was first announced, the logic is clear. It has been obvious for a long time that cities such as Glasgow can no longer be sustained by retail in the way they once were, so on one level it is encouraging to see major investment being made to help ready the city for the future.

Elsewhere in the city centre, smaller developments have occurred that offer grounds for optimism. The Griffin, one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs, is open again after a long spell in mothballs and looks to have a promising future under its new owner, the Isle of Skye Brewing Company. Pub goers will certainly be pleased to see the return of what was traditionally one of the jewels in the crown of the Glasgow licensed trade.

Equally, the buzz around McLellan Works, based in the same block as the McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street, has been heartening to see, as a range of businesses have taken space in its suite of office spaces.

Of course, it is important to not get carried away. Businesses in Glasgow, and elsewhere across the country, have massive challenges to confront. The initial bounce-back the economy enjoyed after Covid restrictions were lifted has quickly receded as inflation and the cost of doing business has rocketed. Optimism has been replaced by profound worry among business owners who do not know whether they will be able to afford to keep the lights on.

Some welcome respite on this front came yesterday, when the UK Government belatedly announced a support package to give businesses some protection from soaring energy bills, for a six-month period at least.

However, some in business are already questioning whether the support will be adequate. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, which represents independent pubs, restaurants, and hotels, pointed out yesterday that the price cap set by the Government is massively higher than how much businesses were paying for gas and electricity before the energy crisis began.

And the Federation of Small Businesses questioned what will happen when the six-month discount period ends. The group repeated its warning that firms should not face a “cliff edge” in the event the support is ended suddenly in spring, and expressed concern there was no mention from Government of a cap on rises to standing charges. “We’ll need to watch that closely, so today’s move leads to a genuine, significant reduction in bills,” said FSB Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae yesterday.

Hopefully, the energy support package announced by the Government is enough to save the many businesses that are struggling to cope in these fragile times.

Scotland needs to retain as many viable companies – and talented staff – as possible if the crumbs of comfort we now see in Glasgow can be built into something more substantial in the long run.