North Worcestershire has an enviable track record for creating new businesses and NWedR is playing its part in supporting entrepreneurs. Statistics from Start up Britain show that during 2015 over 1,600 new businesses were formed in North Worcestershire, which compares favourably with some city based economies in the UK. NWedR has helped more than 250 new start-up businesses through advice, support and grant assistance.
NWedR is helping to nurture fledging businesses, a great example of which is the 7,000 sq ft SPACE building in Wyre Forest and three business centres in Redditch.
In Wyre Forest, SPACE is an ‘incubator’ centre made up of small workshop and office units which has been offered to local start ups at highly subsidised rents and flexible lease terms. SPACE has been fully occupied since it opened in October 2015 and businesses who have incubated and grown in the building are now moving into larger premises around the district – including those run by the council.
Picture Shows: SPACE incubation and Business Centre, Kidderminster
NWedR is significantly improving the business environment by providing business support, encouraging inward investment, connecting people to employment and training, supporting development of key sites and investing in North Worcestershire infrastructure.
The NWedR team has adopted an effective and pro-active approach:
• Identifying and working on ambitious and coherent economic and business strategies across the three districts
• Providing a ‘red carpet approach’ with prospective inward investors which includes one-to-one meetings and introductions to key influencers and business support
• Working with key partners such as Worcestershire County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnerships to invest in new infrastructure across North Worcestershire to unlock opportunities for economic growth and investment
• Creating and delivering new programmes of businesses support to grow and to help new businesses to successfully start up and flourish
• Working with key partners such as the Growth Hubs to help companies access appropriate support and navigate their way through the complex funding arrangements
• Identifying and capitalising upon innovative new partnership arrangements to create opportunities for local businesses
• Being visible in the business community and having a meaningful ‘seat at the table’ in local business groups and networks
• Orchestrating the North Worcestershire Ambassador scheme and the Business Buddy scheme where committed local business owners are involved in promoting the area and supporting each other
• Hosting relevant and regular business events for business leaders to find out about issues that affect them
• Hosting an annual ‘flagship’ event with high profile local speakers for businesses to celebrate their achievements and showcase what the area has to offer
• Engaging in proactive and sustained communications including media relations and networking
• Highlighting local business stories via social media and the NWedR website www.nwedr.org.uk
Picture Shows: Speakers from the NWedR Celebrating Innovation Event 2017 hosted by TV presenter Joanne Malin.
In Redditch, NWedR operates three successful Business Centres - 54 office units and 51 workshop units which are 85% occupied. The Centres offer flexible accommodation and affordable rents and are hugely popular with small businesses and start-ups.
Rolling out the Red Carpet
As a result of the ‘red carpet approach’ offered by NWedR, North Worcestershire has seen a boom in new inward investment. British optical chain Specsavers recently invested £12m in building a new manufacturing and distribution centre in Kidderminster which is in the process of creating 200 new jobs.
Picture Shows: Launch of the new Specsavers facility in 2017
The £20 million Hoo Brook Link Road in Kidderminster opened in 2016 and has released further house building within the Silverwoods development and opened up a significant employment site which will create more new jobs.
Employment areas such as the Bromsgrove Enterprise Park and South Kidderminster Enterprise Park are currently available. The Redditch Gateway is expected to start developing in 2018, which will provide 1 million sq ft. of employment space and create up 2,500 jobs – a true ‘game changer’ for the local economy.
NWedR has put in place a simplified planning regime in Wyre Forest which makes it easier for businesses to expand their premises. The Local Development Order means that specific sites can be redeveloped without the need for planning permission. Hundreds of new jobs have been created directly as a result of this initiative.
These highly visible achievements to date have endorsed the original rationale for creating the shared service which was to ensure that North Worcestershire area played its part in the greater Worcestershire economic success story. Critically, the shared service was also to harness and benefit from opportunities offered by a growing Greater Birmingham economy and the emerging ‘Midlands Engine’. The NWedR team works to ensure that North Worcestershire ‘punches above its weight’ at regional and national level.
NWedR has developed exceptional working relationships with its key strategic partners including the LEPs, County Council, local schools, colleges and local businesses.
The team encourages and nurtures innovative new partnerships to positively benefit the local economy. An excellent example of this is the development of a new partnership with the University of Wolverhampton. The University has opened up a ‘Business Solutions Centre’ in Wyre Forest District Council’s flagship offices in Kidderminster which provides local businesses with direct access to the University’s business support and innovation services.
NWedR has also developed a new partnership with a private training provider (Midland Group Training Ltd) to create a new ‘Engineering Centre of Excellence’ in Redditch. £1.5m of investment was secured to develop the facility which will train up to 200 young apprentices over the next 3 years.
A formal partnership is currently being created with local network group of more than 60 North Worcestershire Business Leaders (NWBL) who meet monthly to share knowledge and ideas for building a better business environment. NWBL and NWedR share many common objectives and values including Corporate Social Responsibility. The joint intention is to develop this and a wider engagement agenda forward over the coming months.
Grass roots partnerships are continuously being cultivated by the NWedR team. A great recent example of this is when our Bromsgrove Town Centre Manager worked with the Bromsgrove Artrix community arts centre to stage a Festival of Light and Christmas lantern procession. This completely new project engaged the local residents, the media and the business community who got involved with lantern making and processed through the bustling festive town centre. One comment on social media captured the moment - “I’ve never seen so many locals in the high street just enjoying themselves and having fun”.
See the Festival of Light video on YouTube https://www.facebook.com/ArtrixArtsCentre/videos/vb.754725437940861/1535318916548172/?type=2&theater
In 2016, NWedR joined with a local education trust ContinU and a local business OGL Computer to promote a scheme to give young people a taste of the world of work as part of the ‘Opening Doors for Business Scheme’.
More than 200 14 year-olds visited Wyre Forest organisations in groups to get a feel for a range of different workplaces. The students visited local participating organisations and gained an insight into what it does, how day to day business is carried out and met people who worked there. The project was hailed a complete success by all involved and created significant momentum. NWedR is now working with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) to extend the initiative into Redditch and Bromsgrove for 2018 as a sustainable part of the curriculum. This initiative has been highlighted as ‘innovative’ and ‘forward thinking’ by businesses and the media, and crucially, by the students and their teachers.
Joined Up Approach to Investment
In addition to NwedR working through the Growth Hubs that cover North Worcestershire to implement various business support packages, NWedR is well represented on various LEP led groups including the two Growth Hub Management Boards, and the respective European Strategic Investment Fund Sub Committees. Regular meetings take place between the respective LEP Chief Executives and representatives of NWedR to ensure proposals plans, programmes and strategies align with the economic priorities of North Worcestershire and deliver the best outcomes for North Worcestershire businesses.
Since NWedR was set up in 2011, it has supported hundreds of local businesses to grow and expand through advice and grant schemes and has helped companies to develop their workforce through apprenticeship schemes, training nearly 70 apprentices in a range of sectors.
NWedR has played a leading role in identifying investment priorities for the three districts it serves and is working with key partners to deliver investment projects that improve the economic vibrancy of the area and create confidence in North Worcestershire as a place to invest.
Transforming our Town Centres
NWedR has been instrumental in delivering a range of town centre regeneration projects. £2m investment from Wyre Forest District Council and Worcestershire County Council has transformed the public realm in Kidderminster Town Centre.
An equivalent level of investment from Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council has been allocated to refurbish the High Street in Bromsgrove town centre. These schemes have been vital in improving the town centre environment, and have attracted major new private sector investment. There is now a new public services hub in the town centre, a second Aldi store is currently being constructed, and work is underway for £3m investment in the Birmingham Road Retail Park to include M&S Food and a Lidl store. A new Waitrose store recently opened along with a number of new independent retailers opening their doors in the town centre.
Picture shows: New Waitrose store opened in Bromsgrove