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Small businesses play a big role in the Swansea Bay City Deal

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With nearly all the Swansea Bay City Deal programmes and projects now approved and in delivery, the contribution that small businesses to the success of the deal are said to be significant.

Saturday 4th December is recognised as Small Business Saturday; a day to celebrate the success of small businesses, encourage people to shop locally and recognise their support in local communities across the country.

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The first of the City Deals projects to be approved and complete is Yr Egin (pictured above) – a state-of-the-art digital and creative hub located at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) in Carmarthen. Anchored by S4C’s headquarters, Yr Egin is also home to around 12 small businesses who have flourished since co-locating at the centre– utilising the office spaces, networking at the hot desking areas as well as the advantages of being part of the University halo effect.  

Welsh Otter and Stiwdiobox are two companies who have grown since moving to Yr Egin and benefiting from the space that’s on offer. Welsh Otter are a family run business who aim to raise the profile of designers who work in Wales by showcasing the best of Welsh homeware, textiles and gifts that draw on traditional, handmade and heritage designs. Stiwdiobox offers up-to-date media technology services to engage with people, including radio workshops, voiceovers and podcasts. Both small businesses have goals that mirror Yr Egin, and the Swansea Bay City Deal – to inspire creativity and innovation, and foster local talented workforce for the future.

Kim Otterburn, Founder and Head of Welsh Otter said: “ Yr Egin has hugely benefited my start up business and helped us to network and grow.  I have been able to use the wonderful, flexible facilities as a hot desking office and for business meetings.  It provides a professional, collegiate environment ideally located in Carmarthen, and the staff have been hugely welcoming and supportive.”

Marc Griffiths, an experienced broadcaster, and the Founder of Stiwdiobox added: “Locating my business at Yr Egin has been a great decision and my facilities include a voiceover booth, a radio studio and YouTube area – all of which are critical to Stiwdiobox’s success. Being part of an interactive, digital community has been great for networking with others. Stiwdiobox continues to grow and I very much look forward to welcoming back local pupils, students and education practitioners who can benefit from the bilingual, digital activities Stiwdiobox has to offer.”

Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the Carmarthen Campus at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David said: “The vision for Yr Egin from the outset was to develop a creative and cultural hub in Carmarthen that would reflect commercial best practice within the creative sector linked to the UWTSD’s bilingual provision.  The aim was to create an accelerator to incorporate the key components of a sustainable, highly productive, and competitive hub that would contribute to the creative and digital economies of Wales and the UK. Yr Egin has delivered on that vision in the three short years since it first opened its doors to S4C and other tenants.  It has become a centre renowned for the excellent facilities it offers, as well as the creative bilingual community that has been established.  I’m delighted that such companies as Stiwdiobox and Welsh Otter are thriving within the centre.”

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Carys Ifan, Director of Yr Egin added: “The Centre is always looking for opportunities to support businesses and has a lot to offer with our thriving community of creative practitioners and small businesses who benefit from engaging with each other under one roof.   Yr Egin’s facilities, which include excellent digital connectivity, supporting meetings online and face to face as well as hotdesking facilities, provide the professional environment for our clients’ business needs. We offer a range of support services to assist businesses to grow or take the next step through our partnership with the Focus Carmarthen Enterprise Hub.  Yr Egin is a great place to do business!”

Supporting the growth of small businesses and start-up companies plays a very important role in developing the Welsh economy, and many parts of the Swansea Bay City Deal are focused on creating opportunities where small and large businesses, along with academia can work collaboratively to thrive.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader and Chairman of the Swansea Bay City Region’s Joint Committee, said: “I would like to celebrate the success of the small businesses already part of the City Deal investment and that are working with us to establish South West Wales as a perfect place to successfully grow and succeed. Many parts of the City Deal provide opportunities for small companies to work alongside large businesses, universities and healthcare, and each of these have an important part to play in the success of the deal. With 8 out of 9 projects from our investment portfolio of up to £1.3 billion now in delivery, we aim to create working environments that will mutually benefit businesses of all sizes across the region. This will drive economic growth and aid our Covid Recovery.”

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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Technology

£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications

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Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.

The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.

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Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.

Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.

“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.

“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”

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Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.

“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”

Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.

The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Money

64% of Wales employees set to leave due to cost of living

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couple talking while moving in new apartment

During the biggest cost-of-living crises most people will have ever experienced, only 6% of employees in Wales believe their employer is doing enough to support them through the crisis.

Even though staggering 72% believe their employer has a responsibility to support them through the current climate.

That’s according to new research from Blackhawk Network, which says that according to employees, employee benefits are no longer just added incentives, they are now a way for employers to support their staff.

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It says it’s now essential employers are informed on what employees want and ultimately need from benefits schemes to help guide them through the cost-of-living crisis.

Other key findings in Wales show 94% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises, with 79% of employees saying employee benefits play, or could play, an important role in improving the cost-of-living 

Almost two thirds (64%) would leave their current job in order to find an opportunity that provides better financial support during the current cost-of-living crisis. 

The findings come from research conducted by Blackhawk Network in conjunction with Sapio, to support the launch of its new Blackhawk Network Extras Benefits Platform.

Workplace benefits are hot property at a time of crisis  

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According to the UK-wide data, 85% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises. While raising wages might seem a simple fix, businesses are also impacted by rising costs and inflation making pay increases unviable. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do to help. 83% of employees agree that workplace benefits play an important role in helping to balance finances as the cost-of-living continues to rise; and 95% of employers agree.

It is telling that almost a quarter (24%) of employees admit they’ve already used their benefits package more during the cost-of-living. In addition, almost three quarters (73%) of employer’s state that prospective employees are looking for employee benefits as part of the solution to the crisis.  

Employers must dial-up on support to have real impact  

The report says that dialling-up cost-of-living support through employee benefits is a must when talent is at risk. For example, salary sacrifice, where employees are offered the option to pay for services or products from their salary before they receive it to reduce tax, can be found with offers such as Cyclescheme, on technology or gym memberships, to save money that would otherwise eat into pay. However, there are still barriers to overcome.

When employees were asked what the term ‘salary sacrifice’ meant, almost three quarters (73%) admitted they did not fully understand it, including 18% who had not idea at all. In contrast, to almost all employers (98%) believing employees understand it to some degree. There is a clear disconnect between the employer and the employee, yet salary sacrifice can save employees money and help in mitigating the effects of the cost-of-living crisis. 

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If employers want to support employees, they need to make information about benefits, like salary sacrifice, more accessible and digestible to prove that it can have a real-life impact on their current financial situation by making their pay go further.

Over half (53%) of employees say they would be more likely to use salary sacrifice schemes if they had a better understanding of how they work. But this is an issue that only employers can fix. Better communication is essential to close the perception gap on employee benefits to be the support employees want and need during the cost-of-living crisis. 

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA Incentives & Operations at Blackhawk Network said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that employers have a vital role to play supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. But the rising costs also mean that businesses are unable to offer blanket wage increases.

“Our research takes an in-depth look into the current state of employee benefits and the perceptions of the employees who are in a position to use them. With the release of this research, we hope to give businesses the tools they need to improve their benefit packages so they continue to support staff throughout the crisis.” 

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