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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.

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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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Fourth-generation Haverfordwest jeweller invests in 155 year old family business

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Fourth generation jeweller Paul Howells has completed the refurbishment of his 155-year-old family business, bringing an adjoining retail outlet back to life and safeguarding four jobs in the market town of Haverfordwest.

Established in 1866 by Paul’s great-grandfather, Howells Jewellers occupies a prime position on Quay Street in Haverfordwest.

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A six-figure loan from the Development Bank of Wales and funding from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Houses into Homes Empty Property Scheme, designed to bring empty properties back in to use, has enabled the refurbishment of the double fronted shop and creation of four new apartments.

Offering views of the river, each of the two-bedroom apartments are to be rented to local people looking for quality accommodation in Haverfordwest.

Paul Howells said: “We’re really proud of our family business and enjoy the job that we do; helping our customers to choose the perfect jewellery. However, our building was in a bad state of repair and needed refurbishing in-order to secure the long-term success of the business and give the property a new lease of life. The funding from the Development Bank and Pembrokeshire Council has enabled us to restore the building with a smart new shop-front and four new apartments, safeguarding our future and helping the town to prosper.”

Paul Howells, Howells Jewellers

Richard Easton is a portfolio executive with the Development Bank of Wales. He said: “Buying jewellery is still one purchase that most people want to do in person rather than on-line so there remains strong demand for high-quality high street jewellers like Howells.

“With a very loyal following, Howells has been an integral part of Haverfordwest for over 155 years. Our investment has helped to protect this legacy, safeguard jobs, create new homes and support a sustainable and successful future for a long-standing and highly respected local business.”

The Wales Business Fund is part-funded by the ERDF through the Welsh Government. It was created specifically to support businesses with fewer than 250 employees based in Wales and those willing to move to Wales with loans and equity packages from £50,000 up to £2 million.

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(Lead image: L-R Paul Howells, Howells Jewellers, Richard Easton, Development Bank of Wales)

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Over 70 exhibitors already confirmed for city centre conference at new Swansea Arena

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From small independent businesses to entrepreneurs, large companies and developers, over 70 exhibitors have already been confirmed for a major event taking place in the spring.

Being held at Swansea Arena on Thursday March 17 from 10am to 8pm, the Swansea City Centre Conference and Exhibition 2022 will give an opportunity for city centre retailers, regional businesses, social enterprises, community projects and not-for-profit organisations to raise their profile and make connections.

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Organised by 4TheRegion in partnership with Swansea Council, the event will also give an opportunity to celebrate the city and the region and find out what’s happening both now and in future.

Exhibitors and all in attendance will hear from decision-makers and city leaders, helping shape the vision for coming years. There will also be discussions, breakout sessions, workshops and a business hub for networking and masterclasses.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “This event – the first conference of its kind to be held at Swansea Arena – will celebrate everything that’s great about Swansea and the region, from our fantastic local businesses to the major projects that are transforming both the city and South West Wales as a whole.

“The combination of our businesses and entrepreneurs with the regeneration that’s either complete, under way or planned means we’re in a strong place to quickly bounce back from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The Swansea City Centre Conference and Exhibition 2022 will enable everyone in attendance to network, raise their profile and find out more about exciting plans for the future that will deliver a city and region that combines world class facilities with high-quality jobs and opportunities to meet the aspirations of all.”

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As well as Swansea Council, Pobl Group and Coastal Housing are on board as the main sponsors for the event, which will feature five zones:

  • Development and investment, sponsored by Swansea Business Improvement District (BID)
  • Destination, travel and tourism, sponsored by Morgans Swansea
  • Circular economy, energy and environment, sponsored by Pobl Group and Coastal Housing
  • Creative economy, culture and digital, sponsored by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Connecting the region, sponsored by the Swansea Bay City Deal

Dawn Lyle, founder and chair of 4TheRegion, said: “Two years ago, we had to cancel this event when the world went into lockdown. After the difficult time we’ve all had since then, it’s time to come back together and look to the future of our wonderful city by the sea and all the exciting things that are happening here. 

“We can’t wait to showcase all the businesses, people, organisations and projects that make this city great – and we hope everyone will take this opportunity to come and have a look around the fantastic new arena too.”

Email zoe@4theregion.org.uk for information on exhibiting.

You can also visit https://www.swansea-arena.co.uk/events/city-centre-conference-4theregion to register to attend the city centre conference for free.

(Lead image: Copr Bay / Swansea Council)

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Neath based Ministry of Furniture unveils growth plans for 2022

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Its plans include a move to bigger premises, an investment in systems and streamlining its offering

Ministry of Furniture, the company which emerged from Remploy Furniture, has unveiled exciting growth plans for 2022, which include a significant investment in systems, a planned move to larger premises and the launch of a new product line.

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The business will also streamline and simplify its offering in line with its core skillset – the design, manufacture (and remanufacture), and installation of furniture. As such, it has completed the divestment of Ministry Graphics, its division offering graphics and signage, which has been sold to its original shareholder.

Ministry of Furniture first invested in Ministry Graphics, originally called Sign and Print Systems, in 2019. Having grown the business substantially, the company has been sold back to Matthew Anderson, the original owner and MD of that business. He will continue to develop the business, to be renamed Sign Inc.

The move will allow Ministry to focus on offering exceptional customer service around its core furniture and interiors offering. This approach will also allow it to expand that offering by launching a fitted furniture range in 2022, complementing the strong links it has developed with the commercial, construction and education sectors.

The company’s growth trajectory has also prompted it to seek bigger premises. In an exciting move for the company, it has signed heads of terms to move into part of the Metal Box Factory in Neath.

Ministry of Furniture plans to take a substantial chunk of the iconic 250,000 sq ft site, which once housed one of the biggest workforces in the area, has been regenerated in recent years by Neath Port Talbot Council and the J.G. Hale Group.

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In line with these plans, the company will also make a six-figure investment in a bespoke set of communications and workflow system designed to streamline the company’s working practices and enhance its customer service.

Ministry of Furniture has enjoyed a period of sustained growth since it was founded from the UK governments closure of Remploy Furniture in 2013. Now, it is eyeing growth and diversification in line with its values and aims as a company in 2021 – and is investing in the people, systems and skills to allow it to leverage that. This also includes anticipated growth in the commercial, construction and education sectors over the next 12 months.

Having realigned the company’s working practices and offering in the past 12 months, it now offers clients a seamless journey over the timeline of a big project – from concept to completion. In Wales, as a framework supplier for The National Procurement Service (NPS) for Wales, it can offer its suite of services to all public sector bodies.

Graham Hirst, Ministry Group CEO

Graham Hirst, Ministry Group CEO, said: “We are delighted to outline this set of exciting plans for the company as we commit to an ambitious vision designed to facilitate continued profitable growth for the business while also putting our customers first and committing to our core values as a company. While the plans will allow us to increase capacity and the scale of our offering, they also mean we remain focused on our core offering – doing what we do best for our clients.

“The move to new premises represents a very exciting new chapter for the business, as does the investment that will go hand-in-hand with that and our launch of a fitted furniture range. In terms of our divestment of Ministry Graphics, we feel that is the right move at the right time for both businesses.

“We’re delighted to have contributed to the growth of the graphics and signage business over the past two years and to be able to pass the business in great shape back to Matthew. Matthew is a good friend to the Ministry Group and takes the business with our very best wishes and encouragement for the future.”

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Lead image: CGI representation of the new Ministry Offices, created by the Ministry of Furniture Interior Design Team

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