Local councils were recognised for their support for small firms as part of the annual Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Local Authority Awards.
At the FSB’s annual ‘Small Business Engagement’ lunch, all councils in Coventry, Warwickshire & Solihull were asked to make known any project or initiative that promotes and champions local economic development. Four awards focused on small business friendliness:
Best ‘small business friendly’ campaign
Best ‘small business friendly’ procurement policy
Best ‘small business friendly’ regulation policy
Best all round ‘small business friendliness’
The awards form part of FSB’s lobbying activity to ensure that at every level of Government, entrepreneurs are viewed as potential wealth, growth and job-creators of the future. Small businesses account for 99.3% of the private sector in the UK, so it’s vital we do everything we can to make it easier for them to thrive.
This year’s winners were: Warwick District Council, for both the best procurement and regulation policies; Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council for the best campaign; and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council, joint winners for best all-round small business friendliness.
Southam-based machine tool supplier Engineering Technology Group has pledged to tackle the skills gap after making a £6m commitment to developing a network of technical academies.
ETG managing director Martin Doyle made the announcement at the launch of the company's first facility at Norton Motorcycles in Castle Donington and laid out the vision to create a further 14 centres across the UK.
The academies, all to be located on the site of a manufacturing partner, will provide companies with the opportunity to upskill their staff on the latest CNC machine tools and precision technology, with some providing a full apprenticeship curriculum.
Mr Doyle said: "There is a real need for industry to get to grips with developing the skills of the next generation of engineers and those already working in the sector.
"Put bluntly, the current education platform is broken and not relevant to the world we operate in. Instead of bemoaning our luck and lack of support, we’ve decided to do something about it with the launch of our national network.
Rugby’s open air shopping complex the Swan Centre has been sold to Caracal Properties in a deal worth more than £3m.
Property consultancy Harris Lamb was instructed by the former owner to sell the centre and deals will now be sought to let vacant retail units at the Chapel Street shopping centre.
Caracal has also secured a change of use on the former Co-operative building to enable it to be transformed into a restaurant quarter.
Harris Lamb's head of retail David Walton said: "This was a fantastic opportunity for Caracal. In all, the centre comprises 16 retail units at the heart of the town centre, with close proximity to the town’s Clock Towers Shopping centre and the recent Asda development, which offer a combined 429 car parking spaces for visitors to the town.
Department for International Trade reported FDI projects up for 2016/17 despite concerns about Brexit.
The story regionally was mixed as the East and West Midlands recorded falls for the period. Coventry & Warwickshire bucked the trend, though, with supported projects, where DIT or local partners such as Invest in Warwickshire or CWLEP supported, were unchanged at 35 projects.
Revenues have rocketed toward the £250m mark at the Exhall-based UK arm of German car parts supplier Brose, whose clients include Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and Nissan.
Newly filed accounts revealed turnover jumped from £197.6m to £244.1m in the year to 31 December 2016. However, pre-tax profit fell from £4.1m to £2m.
A statement accompanying the results said the revenue increase was down to an increase in the production of seats for the Land Rover Discovery.
Jaguar Land Rover continued to improve and expand its facilities in the Coventry & Warwickshire sub-region.
A new office facility at Fen End, where the company has an additional test track to complement the facilities at Gaydon, was operational from May. The site supports the Specialist Vehicle Operations side of the business, which has a production facility at the former Peugeot site in Ryton, now known as JLR Oxford Road.
Aston Martin Lagonda recruited 100 new engineers to drive forward the development of new products, including the DBX crossover and the recently announced electric hybrid powertrain and Rapide E concept.
The company also took an additional logistics unit at Wellesbourne, where the company also has its low volume supercar production facility.
The Vakyrie hyper car, the replacement for the low volume Vulcan, broke cover in July.
Geely London Taxi Company, which recently moved to a brand new manufacturing and R&D HQ at Ansty Technology Park, celebrated the launch of its new hybrid electric taxi the TX by changing the company name to ‘LEVC,’ the London Electric Vehicle Company.
The name change takes effect from September, with first deliveries of the new taxi starting in October.
The opening of the new factory was a major milestone for UK automotive, as it was the first purpose-built electric vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK, and the first new volume car plant in over 10 years, and represents and investment of over £300m in UK automotive.
The Coventry & Warwickshire area has really powered ahead in electric low carbon vehicle technology in the last 18 months, with the emergence of a new brand in the LCV taxi market.
ADV Manufacturing, a supplier to McLaren and Bentley, launched the Dynamo Electric at the Milton Keynes Taxi Show. It is the first fully electric hackney carriage for the UK.
The Bedworth-based business, part of the Bayton Road Industrial Estate auto cluster, has developed the vehicle based on the Nissan.
Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, with support from Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub and Invest in Warwickshire, hosted a Nuneaton & Bedworth Business Support Expo at Nuneaton Golf Club.
Keynote speaker Terry Spall talked about coming developments at MIRA Technology Park, including the new MIRA Technology Institute, opening next year. Other speakers included West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Lisa Garley Evans of Holland & Barrett.
Local entrepreneurs and businesses were able to speak to representatives of the wide range of business support services available in Coventry & Warwickshire. They were also able to see, and take a drive in, the new Dynamo fully electric taxi, developed by ADV Manufacturing in Exhall’s Bayton Road.
HORIBA-MIRA opened a new emissions testing facility at its engineering consultancy base on the A5 near Nuneaton. The new Advanced Emissions Test Centre (AETC) adds to the already strong Coventry & Warwickshire automotive offer.
Developed in response to increased scrutiny around tailpipe emissions, as well as new legislation requiring extensive and increasingly complex testing methodologies, the AETC represents a total of almost £8m investment into HORIBA MIRA’s engineering facilities.
The 12,000 sq. ft facility was officially opened by HORIBA Chairman, CEO and president, Mr. Atsushi Horiba, and the UK Ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden.
Birch Coppice, the premium manufacturing and logistics business park in North Warwickshire, between Atherstone and Tamworth, has achieved a milestone with its latest tenant joining the park, the Chinese white goods maker Beko.
Beko has taken the final two units at the park, agreeing 15-year terms on the 282,000 sq. ft. and 63,000 sq. ft. units. The units were bought last year by Aberdeen Asset Management as part of a speculative investment. The move allows the company to consolidate two sites into one, moving from Birmingham and locally Hams Hall Distribution Park.
The business park now employs in excess of 6,000 people, with tenants including Ocado, VW, Autins and DauDraxelmaier.
The Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival, which will take place this year between November 20th and December 1st, was officially launched and applications for events during the two weeks are now invited.
The event is intended to stimulate business growth in the area and bring the region together once a year to interact, engage, promote, support, learn and discuss business under one branded banner – the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Festival.
Around 50-75 seminars, lectures, workshops and conferences are expected to take place over the fortnight. All events in the Festival will be put on by local companies, which can apply online between June 16th and September 22nd to hold an event as part of the Festival.
A new multimillion pound centre of design excellence, to support UK innovation in the transport industry and boost efforts to bridge a shortfall in essential creative skills, has opened at Coventry University.
The National Transport Design Centre (NTDC), was funded through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the government's multimillion pound Local Growth Deal, with an initial £7 million contribution.
State-of-the-art features of the NTDC, which forms a key facility for the University's existing Centre for Mobility and Transport, include: a 6m interactive power wall which allows users to explore detailed design and engineering concepts in virtual reality; advanced clay milling facilities for creating physical models of vehicles; a projection mapping system which can cast digital images onto 3D objects below; and serviced office space for companies active in transport technologies.
The centre's official opening was in May and the annual Coventry & Warwickshire Automotive Dinner, hosted by the NTDC this year along with Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council, brings together the local auto industry to meet and network.
Rail Live, organised by the Rail Alliance, the rail B2B trade body based in Long Marston, took place again this year at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre (QRTC).
The event attracts thousands of exhibitors and delegates from across the rail industry, including companies active in trackside services and technologies. The show allows companies to demonstrate their technologies and services in a real trackside environment.
This year local train maker Viva Rail, who have developed the new D-Train, launched its first passenger train service, with a temporary shuttle between the Long Marston site and Honeybourne. Delegates could choose to travel from London via Paddington or from Birmingham via Snow Hill to connect with the shuttle service.
The QRTC site is one of the few mainline linked rail testing sites in the UK, and hosts a cluster of rail related companies, including Viva Rail.
Coleshill-based property developer IM Properties has invested in Leamington town centre. The company bought blocks in The Parade and Warwick Street, opposite the entrance to the Royal Priors Shopping Centre, and a further site in Guy Street.
Asset manager Harry Goodman, quoted in Business Insider, said: "The town centre has been on our radar for a while. It's an affluent town, with an appealing mix of major national retail brands and independent boutiques.
"We see a lot of opportunity to add further value and character to the assets. We're already in talks with some really strong and exciting new operators, who are looking to take up the small amount of vacant space available.
"The retailers have confidence in the spa town too. The Card Factory and Greggs have both had their leases extended by a further ten years, and we have also recently completed a letting to Coffee #1 on Warwick Street."
Nuneaton town centre regeneration received a boost as a prominent site, close to the main library, was sold to high end assisted living provider McCarthy & Stone. The company's website says: “The group has a proven business model of buying land, securing detailed planning consent and then building, selling and managing high-quality developments across the UK that are specifically designed to meet the lifestyle needs of older people.”
High end furniture developer Vitsoe continued to make progress on its new HQ and manufacturing site at Leamington Spa, which is being relocated from London.
The company manufactures and sells worldwide the visionary designs created by German designer Dieter Rams from the 1960s.
Warwick Manufacturing Group, at the University of Warwick, released information about its planned new Battery Prototyping Centre, which it is seeking public funding to develop.
The new centre seeks to further develop Coventry & Warwickshire’s low carbon vehicle R&D infrastructure, strengthening the area’s status as the leading centre for battery research in the UK.
Napton-based Lontra, developers of revolutionary compressor technology, were recognised globally as the only UK finalists in the European Inventor Awards 2017.
The company was shortlisted in the “Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises” category and was the only UK finalist in the prestigious Awards ran by the European Patent Office. The winner of the annual innovation prize was announced at the ceremony in Venice on June 15th.
Two Warwickshire companies received support from the University of Warwick Science Park and Warwickshire County Council through the Business Ready Programme.
Guthrie Douglas, which makes tension blind systems in Warwick, secured £35,000 to invest in new machinery. The move will support its aim to double turnover in the next four years and bring its headcount to 20 staff.
Rugby-based furniture maker NEJ Stevenson also secured £35,000 to extend its base in Church Lawford. The business, which has a Royal Warrant and has made pieces for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will also buy new machinery.
Neil Stevenson, of NEJ Stevenson, said: "It’s simply stunning to get this level of support. To be perfectly honest, we’d given up on grants because over the years we have applied and have found it very difficult or just didn’t qualify.
"What we do requires a high level of skill and craftsmanship but there isn’t a huge amount of margin in each commission so this support will mean we can expand, which has to be good for the local economy."
Janette Pallas, of Business Ready, added: "Guthrie Douglas and NEJ Stevenson are great examples of some of the high-end, high-quality manufacturing going on Warwickshire. They supply to everyone from royalty to museums and are renowned for the quality of their manufacturing.
“It is great to hear that both found the process of applying for the grants through Warwickshire County Council straight forward and that it will have a positive impact on their growth, on jobs and the economy of the region."
Warwickshire County Council and crowdfunding platform Spacehive launched a new collaboration, with the county council providing a new £134,000 capital fund to support civic projects in Warwickshire’s Towns, ia the online platform.
The crowdfunding platform can be used to encourage town centre communities to generate and fund civic initiatives that they would like to see in their town centres.