Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Wiltshire businesses help Molly’s garden grow

on .

Lee Trunks (middle), programme manager for WellChild’s Helping Hands project, with members of WellChild’s Helping Hands team and their Mitsubishi ASXThe mother of a girl with profound disabilities has paid tribute to children’s charity, WellChild, and volunteers from CCR Mitsubishi and Ardent Office Solutions who joined forces this week to transform the family’s garden.

Through one of its renowned Helping Hands projects, WellChild was joined by 13 members of staff from CCR Mitsubishi dealerships in Swindon, Melksham and Cheltenham and staff from Ardent Office Solutions, based in Quedgeley, to help 14-year-old Molly Begley have a safe, accessible garden to enjoy.

Molly, from Swindon, has epilepsy, autism, profound learning difficulties, global development delay and scoliosis. She is in remission from a Wilms tumour, a particularly aggressive form of cancer, but treatment has left her with a number of complex health care needs. It takes two adults to support her on trips out, so leaving the family home is difficult.

Molly loves the outdoors and using a swing but, while mum Claire has had their house in Pinehurst Road adapted to meet Molly’s needs, the garden has proved too big a challenge.

Mum-of-four Claire Cook contacted the Helping Hands team at WellChild, the Cheltenham-based national charity for seriously ill children and young people, after hearing about them from Molly’s occupational therapist. The team has spent the last two days (November 19th and 20th) transforming the garden to meet Molly’s needs.

Claire, 36, said: “The garden looks amazing and this will make a massive difference to us. It will change Molly’s life. She will be able to go outside and play and it will benefit her health because she can be more active.

“It will also be great for her brothers and sister who can now play out. It looks great and Molly is really excited, her face lit up. I’m really grateful to everyone at WellChild, CCR Mitsubishi and Ardent for their support.”

Lyndsey Smith, group marketing co-ordinator for CCR Mitsubishi, which has 11 dealerships across the south, said: “It was hard work but the look on Molly’s face when she saw her new garden made it well worth it. We’re all really pleased to have helped on such a worthwhile project and we hope the family enjoy their new space.”

The work included breaking up existing concrete, levelling the garden, putting down artificial grass and a sensory area, installing new fencing and putting in a swing.

Lee Trunks, programme manager for WellChild’s Helping Hands project, said: “WellChild is only able to complete projects like this thanks to volunteers.

"Without them we wouldn’t be able to help children like Molly. It’s great that the team from CCR Mitsubishi and Ardent have helped us make such a difference. This will make a life-changing difference to Molly and her family.”

Export market “key to mid-sized businesses in the South West”

on .

Andrea Bishop of BDODespite making up less than one percent of all firms in the South West, medium-sized businesses account for £1 of every £4 exported from the region, according to new figures from BDO.

Overall, sales abroad total £3.2bn among mid-market companies in the region, representing five percent of all UK exports by mid-sized firms.

However, despite the impressive contribution, the South West’s mid-market is falling behind other regions when it comes to sales abroad.

The value of exports from medium-sized businesses in the North West (£6.4bn), West Midlands and East of England (both £6.3bn) is double or nearly twice the size.

The South West’s consumer markets sector (retail, wholesale and leisure) is the most prolific exporter, accounting for a third of all goods and services sold to overseas markets (£992m).

Meanwhile, medium-sized manufacturers export £834m and professional services come in third with £462m.

Andrea Bishop, audit partner and head of BDO LLP in the South West, says medium-sized firms are still under-valued when it comes to their contribution to UK growth and economic recovery.

“Approximately 75 percent of all mid-market exports take place outside London and South East, yet the government’s focus still lies heavily on London. As policy makers strive to rebalance the economy, it’s important to recognise that regional mid-market firms contribute significantly.

“What’s exciting, yet equally frustrating, is that they’d have even more growth potential if the right support was in place.

“The appetite for international expansion is there – we saw that in spades at the Export Week roadshow that took place in the South West last week. It’s now up to the government to put the right policies in place and give companies in the region the tools to thrive.”

As part of its Mid-Market Manifesto, BDO is calling on the government to consider three policy recommendations to help mid-sized businesses make the decision to export more confidently.

These are to introduce a VAT zero rating to companies that supply to qualifying exporters, something that is already in place in Ireland; agree an exemption from local taxes up to a £1m threshold for when businesses open a new branch or subsidiary overseas; and a review of the unintended consequences of the Bribery Act which, by its sheer complexity, is acting as a real regulatory barrier for new exporters.

MP opens refurbished office complex

on .

MP Justin Tomlinson at the opening of the refurbished Gemini HouseEight new companies have been attracted to Gemini House at Groundwell in Swindon since the first phase of its major refurbishment programme was completed.

A new reception area and totally overhauled communal internal courtyard have helped to lift the property which now offers good quality offices in a tranquil setting.

“Minton Group is proud to have attracted a wide range of new occupiers to Gemini House,” said Ashley Bourne, director of the building’s owners, who recently hosted a drinks reception for occupiers and business leaders.

Justin Tomlinson, MP for Swindon North, visited the building and was able to talk to new occupiers including recruitment agents, eyewear suppliers, IT providers, website designers and financial consultants.

He welcomed the inward investment that has been undertaken at the property to create quality offices at affordable rents which has encouraged business expansion.

"It's fantastic to see investment into newly refurbished office spaces which is encouraging new businesses to come here and provide jobs.

“Here in North Swindon, we have seen 5,345 new business start-ups, helping deliver over a 50 percent fall in unemployment, since May 2010.

“This is, in part, thanks to buildings like this, which encourage new entrepreneurs and companies to grow and develop here in Swindon,” he said.

Joint letting agents Alder King and Keningtons have witnessed a high level of enquiries following the refurbishment.

James Gregory, partner at Alder King, said: “As the economy has steadily improved during 2014, we have seen companies keen to capitalise on the opportunity to take occupation of their own offices on flexible terms.

“The building also offers excellent access to the A419 and the town centre as well as offering excellent car parking.”

Jeremy Sutton, partner at Keningtons, said: “It has been pleasing to see companies who have only been in occupation for a few months needing to expand already. Gemini House provides a wide range of different sized suites and therefore we have been able to accommodate people’s needs”.

For further information regarding the current availability at Gemini House, contact James Gregory at Alder King or Jeremy Sutton at Keningtons.

£80k grant helps Wiltshire firm meet world-wide demand for British clotted cream

on .

Coombe Castle owner Glyn WoolleyThe humble pot of British clotted cream is now finding its way into Hong Kong high teas and the coffee shops of South Korea, thanks to Wiltshire dairy product business Coombe Castle.

And the burgeoning world-wide demand for the cream, a key ingredient in traditional English cream teas, has led to a complete re-think of packaging for Coombe Castle.

The firm is now moving from using glass pots to recyclable plastic pots to meet consumer demand thanks to an £80,000 Rural Economy Grant, administered by Wiltshire Council through The Enterprise Network Swindon and Wiltshire.

The money allowed Melksham-based Coombe Castle to bring forward its plans to invest in essential new equipment to improve its packaging and branding of clotted cream, by five years.

“The growing demand for our long-life clotted cream around the world has been astonishing,” said Glyn Woolley, owner of the dairy products business which he launched in Corsham 30 years ago, since winning three Queen’s Awards for international trade, exporting to more than 30 countries.

“The coffee shops in Seoul can’t get enough of our clotted cream and it’s already on the menu of the Beijing Raffles hotel and the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong where recent word of mouth from the chef means it will soon be served at the Ritz Carlton Shanghai,” said Glyn.

“The Dutch and Americans love it too – although the Americans don’t like it with its traditional crust topping!”

But changing consumer demand and the need to reduce weight for international distribution (not least for airlines like Cathay Pacific which serves Coombe Castle clotted cream on its flights) meant the company had to completely re-think its packaging.

“We knew we had to move to offer a wider range in size of packaging, and from glass to plastic – but we needed to invest in the right specialist plant to do it,” said Glyn.

“Without the £80,000 grant, we would have had to wait for five years – and the moment would have passed. It was a very bold move, to change the way we packaged our product, and we had to be able to ride the wave of changing demand quickly. The grant played a key role in helping us ride that wave.”

Funding for the Rural Economy Grants came from the EU via Defra. “Knowing that Wiltshire Council can access this sort of EU funding through Defra is an amazing opportunity for rural businesses like ours,” said Glyn.

“It’s incredibly valuable for businesses to know this sort of support can be available - more people need to know about future grants.”

By investing in new packaging and expanding to new markets, Coombe Castle hopes to safeguard its existing 30-strong workforce and expand to employ at least five more.

Coombe Castle processes primary produce raw cream and also buys and sells cheeses through its distribution network, supporting a range of producers and other exporting companies.

The business has helped other Wiltshire companies - confectionary, jams, pickles and biscuits - to get into export markets by ‘piggy-backing’ their products to the USA.

Small rural Wiltshire businesses have shared more than £700,000 in Defra Rural Economy Grants to help entrepreneurs launch and expand their businesses.

Julian Head from Wiltshire Council said: "This particular scheme has now closed for new applications but we're hoping to start offering similar rural economy grants through the LEADER and the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s European programmes from 2015.

In the meantime, businesses looking for grants should contact the Wiltshire Business Support Service, part of The Enterprise Network."

Rural Economy Grants are funded by the Rural Development Programme England 2007 - 2013 (RDPE) through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

FSB calls for Autumn Statement to deliver investment and support business ambitions

on .

George OsborneA reform of business rates, tax simplification, better roads and faster broadband is needed against a backdrop of solid support for small businesses, says the Federation of Small Businesses.

In its submission to Government in advance of Autumn Statement on 3 December, the FSB has called on the Chancellor to continue supporting business confidence by reforming business rates, taking forward tax simplification, and investing in infrastructure to strengthen and rebalance the economic recovery.

With continued uncertainty in the Eurozone and elsewhere, the body says, the priority for the Government must be to place the UK economy on a sound fiscal footing to secure its future growth and create the best possible environment for firms to do business, both in the UK and globally.

In its submission, the trade body writes:

"Reforming business rates

"With the ending of the doubling of small business rates relief in March 2015, almost half a million (384,000) small businesses are at risk of returning to paying rates they can ill afford, with thousands more (190,000) potentially seeing their rates bills double.

"With the economic recovery just taking hold and many firms on the High Street still struggling, it is essential that the temporary doubling of relief, announced in the 2013 Autumn Statement speech, is extended.

"The FSB is also calling for improvements to the system for valuation and appeals which are overly bureaucratic, and above all a commitment to fundamental reform of the businesses rate system.

"Investing in infrastructure to rebalance the economy

"The FSB is calling for the Chancellor to announce additional investment in our national infrastructure, to ensure the UK remains competitive internationally and to help rebalance the UK economy.

"It is clear that the lack of investment and ongoing delays in making decisions, such as those around additional airport capacity, are a drag on UK productivity and growth particularly in the regions outside London and the South East.

"A key priority for the Chancellor should be to invest in improving our road infrastructure, and address bottlenecks in regional road networks. Eighty two per cent of small firms rely on the road network to run their businesses.

"To rebalance the economy and stimulate growth outside London and the South East, improving and diversifying transport connections between key Northern cities such as Manchester and Sheffield is vital, building on the "One North" approach recently endorsed by the Chancellor.

"As part of this, serious consideration should be given to a tunnelled trans-Pennine road route to complement the proposed HS3 rail development.

"Creating a faster more modern digital infrastructure is essential for businesses growth, and is a vital tool to encouraging growth in all parts of the UK. Ninety four per cent of small business owners consider a reliable internet connection critical to the success of their business.

"Access to broadband services is now the ‘Fourth Utility' and the Government's ambition for future broadband should match this reality. The FSB is calling on Government to commit to delivering a minimum 'service level floor' of 10 Mbps to all premises in the UK by 2018-19, rising to 100 Mbps for all premises by 2030.

"Tax simplification

"The FSB is asking the Chancellor to commit to further simpler tax simplification that reduces deadweight costs on compliance and makes rules easier to understand and comply with.

"Overly complex tax rules cost small businesses both time and money, with more than three quarters paying around £3,500 a year to comply with obligations.

"Action to simplify rules is needed as three fifths of small businesses report the UK tax system has a negative impact on their ability to take on more staff and grow."

John Allan, National Chairman of Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Businesses want an Autumn Statement that delivers stability and certainty, and provides them with incentives to grow and create employment.

"That means investing in our infrastructure to match the world's best, whether that be broadband, road, rail or air. Regional connectivity, particularly between our great cities in the North, must be improved if the region is to reach its full potential and challenge the economic prowess of London.

"We encourage the Chancellor to progress plans to set out how that vision might be fulfilled. Likewise, we would like to see sights set far higher on broadband connectivity to power the UK's digital economy.

"On taxes, businesses will be looking for measures to ease the cost of business rates, and a commitment to fundamental reform of the current, outdated system. To support business growth and reduce costs, further efforts to simplify our complex tax system should also form a central part of the Statement.

"The FSB has also long called for simplified and sharpened business support to match businesses' growth ambitions. Unfortunately current schemes have not had the impact they should have, which is why the FSB has called for reforms.

"We are pleased the Government has reviewed the current offer this year, with a view to making it easier to access. We now look forward to seeing what progress has been made."

Expanding prep school firm signs Corsham lease

on .

22 High Street CorshamWishford Schools – a family-run group of independent prep schools – has taken the lease on a suite of offices in the centre of Corsham.

The £6,000 per annum deal was negotiated by Kilpatrick & Co Commercial Property Consultants.

Stephen Brickell, of Kilpatrick & Co, said: “We are delighted to have let the offices, which extended to 854 sq ft arranged over the first and second floors. The tenant will be trading from the premises as part of their expending business.”

Wishford recently announced that St Edward’s Prep in Reading had joined the group, which includes Hatherop Castle in the Cotswolds, Heywood Prep in Corsham, and St Faith’s Prep in Kent.

Vectura celebrates sales rise and welcomes new CFO

on .

Chris BlackwellChippenham-based pharmaceutical product developer Vectura announced the appointment of a new CFO this week, as it posted six-monthly results with revenues up 14 percent.

Vectura, which specialises in the development of products for the treatment of airways diseases, recorded revenues of £19.4 million in the six months up to September 30, according to figures published this week.

It also announced that Andrew Oakley will succeed Paul Oliver as CFO on January 1. He will also take up the roles of executive director and company secretary.

Oakley has spent almost 11 years at Swiss bio-pharmaceutical company Actelion as CFO. After leaving Actelion in 2013, he served as CFO at privately held Swiss biotech Novimmune.

Dr Chris Blackwell, chief executive of Vectura, said: “We are delighted to welcome Andrew to Vectura at this exciting period in the Company's growth plans.

“Andrew is an established and well-regarded CFO who has gained considerable relevant experience within a leading European pharmaceutical company.

“His strong financial control, market knowledge and transaction experience will be a considerable asset for Vectura.

"The Board would like to thank Paul for his considerable contribution to the Company over the past eight years. Since joining Vectura, Paul has contributed to the growth of Vectura and to the successful acquisitions and subsequent integrations of Innovata plc and Activaero GmbH.

“We wish him continued success in his future career."

More Articles ...