Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Two Wiltshire manufacturers get share of £506m funding pot

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Department-for-business-innovation-skillsTwo Wiltshire businesses are to receive support from the fourth round of the Government's Regional Growth Fund, which aims to support the creation of economic growth and sustainable employment.

Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells of Swindon and Cooper Tires of Melksham have successfully bid for a share of the £506 million pot of funding. 

More than 300 companies companies across the country applied for funding but only 102 were successful in their bids.

The Regional Growth Fund is a flexible and competitive £3.2 billion fund operating across England from 2012 to 2017. It supports projects that are using private sector investment to create economic growth and sustainable employment.

Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells will invest the funding in the development of world class manufacturing capabilities at their Swindon facility. This will boost both the local economy and the growth of high technology business in the Swindon area.

Cooper Tires meanwhile will use the funding to build a combined heat and power plant and install solar panels at their site in Melksham. It will also safeguard the future of the business in Wiltshire, securing almost 1,000 jobs in the process.

Welcoming the news, Paul Johnson, chairman of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: 

"This is great news for Swindon and Wiltshire. The successful bids of Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Cooper Tires not only prove how strong our local businesses are, but also their potential for growth which the government clearly also believes in."

Chippenham MP Duncan Hames, who spoke in Parliament to support Cooper Tyres' bid, said: “Helping energy intensive industries like this generate clean renewable energy is good for the environment and good for local employment.

"I believe the investment the company is making should put its Melksham operation on a firmer footing for the future.”

Marshfield Bakery rises to the occasion

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Andrew Phillips MAS advisor for Wiltshire with Chris Smith director of  Marshfield BakeryA Chippenham company that manufactures quality handmade cakes, snack bars, biscuits and seasonal goods has increased its turnover by 155 per cent and launched 13 new products after developing an innovation strategy to capitalise on opportunities to enter new markets.

Marshfield Bakery, which is based in Dyrham and distributes its products throughout the UK and Europe, has worked closely with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to develop a long term project plan in order to meet future customer demand.

Chris Smith, director of Marshfield Bakery, said: “We needed support in looking at things from a different angle in terms of the development of the business, how to prioritise our ideas and accommodate anticipated growth.

“MAS helped us map out areas we could look to focus on including addressing capacity and process planning, such as making better use of floor space and identifying key process bottlenecks. 

“The support from MAS has been fundamental in taking us from a business that turned over £700k to £2m in under three years. 

“We have launched 13 new products and created 22 new full time posts, providing much needed jobs for the surrounding community.”

Andrew Phillips, MAS Advisor for Wiltshire, said: “Marshfield Bakery is an innovative company with a team committed to growing the business and continually looking for ways of improving operations.

“With our support in identifying and developing ways to fulfil the company’s potential to access new markets, a strong platform is in place for further growth.”

Marshfield Bakery manufactures a range of products for both niche retailers and major supermarkets. It now has 45 members of staff and a turnover of £2m.  

Business booms as sun shines on Britain, says FSB

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As the UK experiences a second week of sun, Federation of Small Businesses members continue to report big improvements in trade.

This, says the organisation, is welcome news after the effect on business of the extended period of cold in the first half of the year.

FSB research from earlier this year found that more than half (55%) of UK small firms were impacted financially by the prolonged cold snap costing each business £1,580 in lost earnings.

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "It's great that the warm weather is continuing to provide a boost to small businesses up and down the country, especially considering how long businesses had to suffer from the cold this year."

Public given chance to invest in new green energy business

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How Chelworth Solar Array will lookWiltshire residents are to be given the chance to invest in a new solar energy farm near Cricklade, a meeting of environmentally-aware business leaders was told this week.

Peter Andrews of Bath & West Community Energy told delegates at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Sustainability Forum that a community share issue would be launched next week, giving investors a stake in a 4,000-panel solar farm.

Bath & West Community Energy and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, delegates were told, have joined forces to form a new business called Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy specifically to develop, finance and operate community-owned renewable energy projects on sites owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. 

The first will be The Chelworth Solar Array on 2.5 hectares of low grade agricultural land at Chelworth Industrial Estate near Cricklade.

“The generation of power in this country is dominated by the Big Six,” said Peter Andrews, director of BWCE, which won the South West Green Energy Awards in 2012. “We want to put electricity generation into your hands.”

Mr Andrews told the Forum that the Chelworth Array – for which planning consent has already been granted – would be capable of generating a megawatt of electricity: enough to power 250 homes. 

“We want to appeal to people who want to invest their money ethically and get a financial return,” explained Mr Andrews. “We're looking at a return of nine percent, seven percent of which will go back to our members, while some of the surplus will be put back into local community projects.”

Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy aims to raise £1.2 million to fund the project from a combination of loans and the issue of £1 shares, subject to a minimum investment of £500 and a maximum of £20,000.

The new company – which was incorporated this week – is a co-operative, meaning each share holder will get one vote, regardless of their level of financial investment. The company is also subject to the ethical values of the co-operative movement.

The share offer will be launched at STEAM in Swindon on Tuesday, July 16 and at Salisbury Guildhall on Thursday, July 18, with both events running between from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the initiative at Lower Moor Farm visitor centre, Cricklade on Tuesday, September 3 and Langford Lakes visitor centre, Wilton on Wednesday, September 4, both between 5pm and 8pm.  

Swindon Chamber lays on 'posh picnic' at Bowood

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Bowood House. Image courtesy of Paul BuckinghamWith the warm weather set to continue, Swindon Chamber of Commerce is heading to the beautiful grounds of Bowood House, near Calne, for its Summer Reception.

In a departure from its formal corporate dinners, the Chamber is presenting a 'posh picnic' with informal grouping of tables and chairs around the walled garden, terraces and lawns.

Attendees will be able to enjoy a summer's evening of fine wine, food and networking, as well as getting an update on the Swindon Canal project from the Berkshire, Wiltshire & Oxfordshire Canal Trust.

The event takes place on Wednesday, August 7 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Attendance costs £48 for members and £60 for non-members. For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk/event/44833

Police commissioner invites Swindon businesses to share crime experiences

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Angus MacphersonWiltshire’s police commissioner Angus Macpherson was at Swindon Chamber of Commerce this morning (Friday) to identify the type of crimes suffered by the Swindon business community, and the effect crime as on business in the town.

Mr Macpherson told networkers that they – and other Swindon businesses – could share their experiences of crime and policing by taking part in an online survey.

But respondents have to be quick: the survey – which can be found at www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk/Feedback/Business-Crime-Survey.aspx – closes at midnight on Sunday (July 14).

The findings of the survey will be presented at a free half-day business crime forum, hosted by the commissioner, from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Friday, September 6 at the Corn Exchange, Devizes.

The forum will also provide an opportunity for delegates to hear how they may prevent their business from becoming victim to a wide range of fraud.

To book a place, log on to www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk

Six years after purge, A boards ban is officially lifted

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A boards at the entrance to Hughenden Yard, whose traders were not affected by strict highways regulationsSix years after a purge on A boards left Marlborough traders fuming – and out of pocket – Wiltshire Council has officially relaxed its stance on street furniture.

And a leading councillor has admitted that “ Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do.”

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce was forced to come to the rescue of independent shopkeepers in 2007, following a purge by Wiltshire Highways. 

The highways department wrote to 19 traders who had erected A boards in Marlborough High Street, citing health and safety concerns.

A boards owned by 13 traders, who had not heeded the council notice, were subsequently confiscated.

Shopkeepers – many of whom were based in Kingsbury Street and The Parade – reported an immediate drop in footfall of between 25 and 40 percent.

And there was confusion over what constituted 'the highway', with traders from Hughenden Yard escaping the purge because their A boards were on private land. 

Following negotiations with the highways department and the town council, the Chamber of Commerce arranged for the installation of two large planters with bike racks and finger posts to the retail enclaves. 

Now, the council has reviewed and relaxed its regulations across the county.

Wiltshire councillors and officers decided to avoid regulations with the condition that anything businesses place on the highway is done in a sensible manner without creating a risk for other users of pavements and footpaths.

John Thomson, cabinet member with responsibility for highways and transport, said: “Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do, and we want to make it as easy as possible for local businesses to do well in Wiltshire.

“We do however expect businesses to act responsibly and ensure that everyone, including those with disabilities, is able to use the footpaths and pavements safely and without risk.”

The news was welcomed by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce. President Paul Shimell, who owns Specsavers in High Street and uses two A boards to promote his business, said: "It's good to see that common sense has finally prevailed, and that traders can promote their businesses in a safe manner."

Traders are being encouraged to speak to council highways officers who can give guidance, advice and practical help to businesses wishing to promote their business in this way. The council’s highways enforcement team can be reached on 01225 713356.

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