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From making cans to creating jobs and cleaning the air – the latest tenants at Metal Box

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The transformation of Neath’s iconic former Metal Box container factory into a job creating business zone has been a big success with much of the work being carried out during the Covid pandemic.

Now it will play a major role in helping the area’s recovery from the economic effects of coronavirus with Neath Port Talbot Council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Cllr Ted Latham and Cllr Leanne Jones, and Chief Executive Karen Jones, visiting the site on Friday (November 12th).

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They were invited by the latest business to move into the Milland Road business zone, Vortex IoT (Internet of Things) – a dynamic company at the forefront of smart city technologies and experts in air quality monitoring.

Vortex has pedigree in helping councils reduce air pollution through unprecedented, street-level measurement of air quality. By 2050, air pollution is set to be the number one cause of environment-related deaths worldwide and Vortex is passionate about stopping this by contributing towards clean air for all. 

With large air quality monitoring networks across the UK, Vortex’s partners benefit with the detailed air quality intelligence needed to take targeted environmental action. 

Neath Port Talbot Council is now benefitting from Vortex’s pioneering air quality monitoring networks. The deployment of 70 sensors, attached to lamposts, is the first of its kind in Wales and is harnessing the power of technology to get a much better understanding of air quality on a local level. Better air quality intelligence will uncover previously hidden pollution hotspots and discover the sources of pollution, allowing the council to take targeted action to demonstrably cut air pollution. 

The cutting edge deployment goes far beyond DEFRA legislated air pollution guidelines and is an indicator of the clear intent that Neath Port Talbot Council and Vortex have to protect residents’ health and mitigate the harm of air pollution. It’s supported by the Swansea Bay City Deal Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme, and is being delivered as part of the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy. 

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Vortex IoT plans to create up to 50 highly skilled engineering and advanced manufacturing jobs in the next 18 months at its new home in the former Metal Box site. The company has recently been awarded Tech Company of the Year at the 2021 Swansea Bay Business Awards, as well as being awarded for its entrepreneurship via company Chief Executive, Adrian Sutton. 

The former Metal Box site was occupied for more than 70 years by the Metal Box container factory but since its most recent occupier, the Crown Packaging company, closed in 2016, the future of the historic building seemed doubtful and it remained vacant for some years. However, with support from the Welsh Government’s targeted regeneration investment programme, Neath Port Talbot Council bought the site with the aim of creating around 400 jobs. 

Sevenoaks Modular purchased approximately 50% of the production area of the building, giving the project a major early boost. Refurbishment work on the modernisation of the site continued throughout the pandemic with the work being done by Port Talbot-based contractor Andrew Scott Ltd. 

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Cllr Ted Latham and Cllr Leanne Jones, and Chief Executive Karen Jones, visited the site on Friday (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

Council Leader Cllr Latham said: “The idea of establishing the business zone was to work with local businesses to provide offices and other facilities to create expansion and growth opportunities and it’s a real achievement that so much progress was made on the site despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re delighted Vortex IoT has now made the site its home and we look forward to working with the company to thoroughly investigate air pollution issues to help make our communities cleaner and greener.”

Adrian Sutton, Vortex CEO, said: “Vortex is passionate about decarbonisation, and our complete in-house manufacturing of this cleantech relies on a robust base of operations. Metal Box is an office we are proud of, and it is invigorating to work with a council so focused on providing clean air for its residents.”

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(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Ammanford

Jenkins family set to grow Capel Hendre business as the UK’s leading manufacturer of chimney cowls and flue systems

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Midtec, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of chimney cowls and flue systems has completed the construction of 2500 square feet of additional manufacturing space at Capel Hendre Industrial Estate near Ammanford, using a £220,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales.

Formed in 2003 by Managing Director, Trefor Jenkins, Midtec first benefitted from investment from the Development Bank in 2005.

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They have since had several rounds of funding from the Development Bank to support growth plans and the next generation is looking to the future with the new additional space being used to house a state of the art ENSIS laser cutting machine, supplied by Amada.

Trefor said: “The ongoing support of the Development Bank means that we’ve been able to grow the business, drive efficiencies and invest in new market opportunities. We’ve also introduced new products including the MidCat, an innovative solution for reducing the pollution created by wood burning stoves and the only one of its kind in the UK.”

“Our latest investment in our technology means that we can now offer a laser cutting service that will help to improve our quality and production processes and save time on the turnaround of customer orders. We hope that this will play an important part in our future growth. Indeed, our turnover is on target to exceed £2 million this year and I’m delighted that my son Thomas and daughter Hannah are already playing a vital role in the business as we focus on our long-term sustainability.”

Midtec make chimney cowls and flue systems at their Capel Hendre manufacturing base
Midtec make chimney cowls and flue systems at their Capel Hendre manufacturing base

Richard Easton, a Portfolio Executive with the Development Bank, said: “Midtec is a family run and owned business that is known for its high quality and excellent customer service. With our continued support, Trefor, Thomas, Hannah and the team have created a modern manufacturing facility that has a really exciting future ahead.”

The loan came from the £204 million Wales Business Fund which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government. Loans, mezzanine finance, and equity investments are available for deals between £50,000 and £2 million with terms ranging from one to seven years for small and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 250 employees) based in Wales, or willing to relocate to Wales.

Construction company TRJ of Ammanford carried out the building work, while Jamie Reynolds of Cennen Solutions has also been providing strategic support.

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Award-winning Pembrokeshire pub celebrates ultrafast broadband boost

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An award-winning pub in the heart of Pembrokeshire has been supplied with ultrafast fibre broadband in a move to boost connectivity in the area.

In 2010, Simon Vickers and Sian Mathias took over 300-year-old award-winning pub, The Griffin, moving from the city to their home roots with their two children for a lifestyle change. Accidental Chef, Simon, was also recently named Pub Chef of the Year 2021.

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The couple celebrated their new broadband connection last Friday (15th July), which has been supplied courtesy of Broadway Broadband.

They were joined by Pembrokeshire Council members Patrick Hannon and Michael Odlin as well as County Councillor Paul Miller, and members of the Broadway Broadband team.

Broadway Broadband has pledged to connect all 224 properties in Dale Village with ultrafast fibre broadband, in their aim to tackle the digital divide currently affecting remote, hard-to-reach areas of Wales.

The area surrounding The Griffin Inn had previously grappled with poor download speeds of around 5-10Mbps, with Superfast and Ultrafast packages completely unavailable. The package supplied by Broadway offers speeds of 100 Mbps for only £19.99 per month.

The new connection hopes to provide a boost for businesses and residents in the local area, who rely so heavily on the internet for day-to-day activity.

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Pembrokeshire Council members Patrick Hannon and Michael Odlin as well as County Councillor Paul Miller, and members of the Broadway Broadband team.

Simon Vickers/Sian Mathias, co-owner of The Griffin Inn, said: “We are over the moon to have now been connected by Broadway to fast broadband! This will bring much needed stability and speed to The Griffin Inn which relies on digital connectivity for almost all aspects of its daily running.

“On top of that, Dale Village is a popular tourist destination for families and water sport enthusiasts, so we hope our broadband upgrade will draw in more tourists looking for a ‘staycation’ holiday.”

Reece Simmons, Wales Regional Manager, Broadway Partners, said: “It has been great to witness first-hand the positive impact superfast, reliable broadband can have on local communities who previously have been disadvantaged by frustratingly slow internet speeds.

“The first connection in Dale Village at The Griffin Inn is a welcome first step in our goal to connect all the properties in the area with affordable, highspeed, reliable broadband and begin to bridge this connectivity gap we see across many rural areas”.

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Aldi retains title of ‘UK’s cheapest supermarket’

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As Brits continue to look for ways to cut household costs, consumer group Which? has yet again named Aldi as the cheapest UK supermarket.

With savings of £12.62 compared to the average Big Four basket, Aldi says its shoppers can be confident they’re getting the best deal.

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Which? conducted its monthly Cheapest Supermarket price comparison and looked at the cost of a basket of 47 items, including groceries and household essentials, with Aldi coming in cheapest at just £74.23.

The same shopping cost a whopping £16.91 more at Morrisons and £12.54 more at Tesco.

The independent consumer group’s research also found Aldi to be a massive £25.23 cheaper than the most expensive supermarket, Waitrose, for an equivalent basket of items.

The full results of the research are as follows:

RankRetailerAverage £
1Aldi74.23
2Lidl75.61
3Asda83.22
4Sainsbury’s86.27
5Tesco86.77
6Morrisons91.14
7Ocado95.33
8Waitrose99.46

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “We know that across the nation many families are finding things tough due to the cost of living crisis. At Aldi, we’re determined to help by keeping costs low and quality high for our customers. We’re thrilled to yet again be named the UK’s cheapest supermarket.”

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(Lead image: Aldi)

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