I think we are talking cross purposes as I agree entirely with you, albeit I think there are certain sectors and industries which will always align itself with Newcastle (or Durham) over Sunderland purely because of the unvisersity (it’s research and development) and others from a kudos / recruitment perspective.I'm not at all suggesting it is....but what I am suggesting is Sunderland starts to make its centre more competitive, more commercial, more diverse and competes for white collar office workers. No matter how futile people thinks it is, but the perception of Sunderland as a post industrial town is changing. It's becoming a modern centre for commerce. And it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the council and development corporations if they didn't at least try and compete...
I also think the council are doing as you say as the Vaux masterplan shows circa 450,000 sq ft of NIA for office accommodation alone. I think as a city can certainly try to compete with Newcastle on for inward investment, which I’m guessing they did with Ocado, purely on a cost basis and that we have significant amounts of space to build new modern office accommodation.
The issue where we are at the moment is that to attract those business as well as higher paid / qualified white collar jobs we also need to some how improve the look and feel of the city centre, which is difficult to do without the business and footfall in the city. I guess to start there may need to be a reshuffle of businesses within the city centre, hence my previous statements of reducing the size of the retail and leisure offer in the city to provide a more company and improved offer to generate greater footfall.