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Swansea Council first local authority to officially endorse ‘Black Pound Day’

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One of Wales’ most high-profile black entrepreneurs has praised Swansea Council for being the first local authority to publicly support Black Pound Day – and has called on other public bodies and private companies across Wales to also lend their weight to the initiative.

Serial entrepreneur Bernie Davies is looking to mobilise the business community and politicians in Wales to celebrate Black Pound Day, a monthly celebration of the contribution made to the local economy by black-owned businesses. It will happen on the first Saturday of every month starting on December 5.

Bernie Davies (Image: Seren Global Media)

Black Pound Day is an initiative founded by Swiss, music artist and member of So Solid Crew collective. The initiative encourages all communities to support black businesses to address the economic disparity and inequalities faced by black business owners and entrepreneurs in the UK. The initiative has achieved UK-wide success and has supported over 1,000 businesses since launching in June earlier this year.

Black Pound Day was formed in the South of England to raise awareness of the contribution black-owned businesses make to the economy while encouraging people to use black-owned businesses once a month.

The concept has since been embraced in many parts of the country. Most recently working in collaboration with BPD, the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce supported the initiative backed by fintech entrepreneur Joel Blake OBE.

In Wales, Swansea Council has endorsed the initiative. Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “Swansea is a diverse and dynamic city with a proud tradition of celebrating the contributions made by our different communities. I’m only too pleased to add my support to the launch of Black Pound Day in Wales and would encourage businesses and residents to get behind the movement. This is an opportunity to not only promote and support the economy in Swansea and online, but also to further bring our communities together.”

According to a report from Aston University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), firms run by entrepreneurs from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds contribute as much as £25 billion to the UK economy.

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But evidence suggests there are persistent disparities in the prospects and business outcomes owners from ethnic minority backgrounds. A study by British Business Bank published in October called ‘Alone together entrepreneurship and diversity in the UK’ showed that, after starting a business, Black business owners have median turnover of just £25,000, compared to £35,000 for White business owners. Median productivity is less than two thirds.

Meanwhile, only half of Black entrepreneurs meet their non-financial aims, compared to nearly 70% of White entrepreneurs.

The launch of the initiative follows Black History Month, which took place in October this year. Though this initiative has also evolved into Black History 365 in Wales in recognition of the fact that Black History will be celebrated and taught all year.

Bernie Davies said: “I think this is a fantastic initiative that has gained great traction in other parts of the country and which Wales should embrace. We are aiming to pull this off for December 5th, which is just the boost businesses need coming up to Christmas.

“I am delighted that Swansea Council has become the first local authority to back the initiative. I am now encouraging other businesses and individuals to get behind the campaign, which I believe is so important to the BAME community.”

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Bernie is a serial entrepreneur and bestselling author. An attorney-at-law by training, she became head of property at NewLaw Solicitors, a role in which she became a successful networker, Dynamo Role Model for the Welsh Government and now Business Wales Mentor.

She sits on the Black History Wales Management committee, the Swansea BAME society and has a close association with the Centre for African Excellence Swansea, African Caribbean Community Centre, BYP Cardiff (Black Young professionals network). She has received numerous accolades including Swansea Black Icon 2019 and Excellence in Business 2017, an award associated with Black History Month.

Bernie recently formed a new venture, Bernie Davies Global, which has the stated aim of helping businesses and other entrepreneurs navigate the pitfalls of getting back to a new normal post COVID-19 lockdown – and ready to embrace the opportunities that emerge.

She also recently published a book designed to help individuals fulfil their potential in business by better understanding what is truly unique about them – and the businesses they have created. ‘Your Business, Your Way’ is an Amazon’s Number 1Hot New Release and overall Amazon Bestseller.


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Council backing for Small Business Saturday

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Swansea Council is backing Small Business Saturday by continuing to encourage people to shop local.

Being held on Saturday December 4, Small Business Saturday is a UK-wide grassroots campaign that encourages people to support small businesses within their communities.

The Swansea Council plea follows on from the authority providing over £150m of support to local businesses throughout the pandemic.

Grants of up to £1,000 are being made available to support start-up businesses, with grants of up to £10,000 being provided to help businesses throughout the city upgrade the look of their properties.

Free bus travel schemes are helping support local shopping, along with the provision of free outside public space use for businesses to expand. The council is also helping businesses by working with the Welsh Government to provide grants through the Transforming Towns scheme.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “Our local, small businesses have been there for us throughout the pandemic, and the council is there for them too.

“So as well as all we’re doing as a council to help our small businesses as part of our economic recovery fund – which has now been increased from £20m to £25m – we’d also continue to encourage people throughout Swansea to support their local traders both on Small Business Saturday and beyond.

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“This is important because it boosts our local economy while helping sustain and create jobs for local people.”

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities right across Swansea, so they rightly deserve our backing.

“From innovative new businesses to those which have been in our communities for generations, many people enjoy the retail and social opportunities they provide both in the city centre and throughout all others parts of Swansea. This is an especially important time of year for our businesses too as we head towards Christmas, so I’d encourage as much support as possible.”

The council has also launched a Shop Local Swansea campaign to encourage people to shop more locally by supporting smaller, independent businesses in their communities. The campaign includes a Shop Local webpage with listings of businesses in communities including Clydach, Gorseinon, Gowerton, Killay, Morriston, Mumbles, Pontarddulais, Sketty and Uplands.

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New Swansea processing facility will ‘recycle the unrecyclable’

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Resource recovery expert Fiberight has set up a new facility and Centre of Excellence in Swansea that will use innovative resource recovery techniques to increase the capture of materials from waste for the production of market-ready recycled materials.

Based at the Westfield industrial estate in Waunarlwydd, the plant will recover and recycle valuable resources from household waste using Fiberight’s core water-based process, HYDRACYCLE™.

This economically sustainable process captures more than 70% of recyclable materials in the household waste stream, including packaging such as bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays, plus food waste, paper/card, metals and aggregates (glass and grit). Recovered materials will be recycled and used in higher value products for the circular economy.

The plant’s current capacity is 12,000 tonnes a year to enable Fiberight to conduct R&D and validation work. The initial input feedstock comprises plastic-rich materials rejected from waste sorting facilities (MRFs) across England and Wales. This reject stream contains significant amounts of recyclable materials that can be recovered and recycled along circular economy principles – capturing these lost resources.

Nick Thompson, co-founder and Managing Director of Fiberight Ltd explains that Wales was chosen as it is the ‘leading UK nation in terms of recycling rates and resource recovery’.

He says: “Having developed the concept for a ‘resource refinery’ or ‘manufacturing facility that uses waste as a feedstock’ more than ten years ago, we have developed a unique process that is now tried and tested.”

Nick emphasises how their concept brings processing infrastructure to the UK, rather than relying on exporting to other countries to ‘finish the job’, adding: “This creates a massive opportunity in the UK to take the hundreds of millions of pounds of value lost by burning, burying or exporting waste and turn it into high value resources, which can be fed back into our manufacturing industry. As both national government and local authorities seek better processes and strategies to deal with waste, we are here to demonstrate we can deliver it.”

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In early 2022, the capacity will increase to 40,000 tonnes a year as a pre-commercial facility and employ local people. Long term, the aim is to create a 120,000-tonne commercial plant by 2026 with 40 jobs.

Processing waste via HYDRACYCLE™ significantly reduces carbon emissions by minimising the volume of waste requiring end of life disposal. The process saves 780kg CO2 emissions per tonne of waste input by recovering and recycling waste that would typically be buried or burnt.

A typical HYDRACYCLE™ plant will deliver the equivalent carbon saving of removing more than 20,000 petrol cars from the road each year when compared to business-as-usual landfill and/or incineration.

To facilitate the plant’s development, existing equipment and items from Fiberight’s US demonstration facility has been repurposed for the Swansea site. Fiberight has also been supported by various R&D-funded projects, including Innovate UK and the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).

In addition to creating skilled jobs, Fiberight’s plant will see the output from the paper and card found in waste being used as animal bedding, biomass fuel, or converted into high end sugars for chemicals production processes; and the plastics will be separated and transformed into a range of materials and fuels. Any true residual waste would be used for energy generation.

Looking ahead, Fiberight aims to establish the facility as a Centre of Excellence that will demonstrate the core HYDRACYCLE™ process – plus several bolt-on technologies all in one location – recovering and recycling a variety of waste materials into high value products.

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The concept is to showcase what can be achieved by taking this new, innovative circular approach and how much value can be realised from mixed waste streams. Alongside commercial operations, R&D work will continue, including testing different feedstocks as well as responding to new opportunities.

Nick adds: “Our next generation recycling technology captures around 70%-plus of whatever waste a council isn’t recycling and transforms it into valuable recycled materials and products. We are excited to be part of an active sector in Wales which is open to new innovation and approaches.”

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New home on Port Talbot enterprise zone for MMEngineering

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Defence engineering specialists MMEngineering are enjoying record growth as they prepare to relocate to their second home on the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone.

Established in 2016 by James Morton and brothers Chris and Martin McDermid, the company has grown by 30% over the last year reaching a turnover of £2.6miliion. This is expected to exceed £3.5 million in 2020/21 with increased customer demand prompting the need for additional space.

An initial loan of £175,000 from the Development Bank of Wales enabled MMEngineering to set-up in a 6,000 square foot unit on Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone. The company has now signed a new ten year lease for 20,000 square feet. The cost of the move and fit-out is being funded by a £250,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales. The interest rate of both loans has been reduced by 2% as the business is based in an enterprise zone.

Employing 19 people, MMEngineering designs, manufactures and installs high quality blast and flood defence solutions across the UK and internationally with exports to Thailand, Singapore and South East Asia.

Chris McDermid, Director of MMEngineering said: “The last two-years have been a roller-coaster of a journey as we simply did not know how Covid-19 would impact our performance. Our confidence certainly took a knock last year but with the on-going support of the Development Bank of Wales, we’ve been able to refocus and we’re now busier than ever but lack of space has been limiting our efficiency and ability to grow quicker.

“Staying on the same enterprise zone enables us to benefit from more space with a smooth transition. We also maintain the discounted interest rates which is helpful in terms of reducing the cost of borrowing and lowering monthly payments therefore minimising the impact on cashflow. Of course, we have an existing relationship with the Development Bank but the whole process really has been very quick and straight-forward which is exactly what we needed to be in a position to secure the new unit.”

Donna Williams, Development Bank of Wales & Chris McDermid, Director MMEngineering

Donna Williams and Stewart Williams from the Development Bank of Wales support MMEngineering. They said: “MMEngineering has exceeded all expectations over the last few years with a real surge in growth but the business has been physically limited by space.

“With our support, the team can now increase production capacity and deliver on demand; improving efficiency and preparing for the next phase of growth without needing to relocate away from the area. In fact, Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone is an ideal location given the support available for businesses like MMEngineering as we work with Welsh Government to offer reduced interest rates on our loans by up to 2%.” 

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There are eight enterprise zones in Wales. With access to a deep water harbour and excellent rail and road links, Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone benefits from access to enterprise class connectivity,  a range of affordable accommodation and support from Welsh Government and the local authority. With a strong manufacturing heritage, there is a loyal and skilled labour pool living within a 30-minute commute.

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