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Rapidly changing situations call for leaders who can bring together diverse project teams to fix problems and exploit opportunities, fast. You can’t predict and prevent all the problems you are going to encounter, instead, prepare your teams so they can assess and respond quickly rather than being emotionally derailed or bogged down in corporate bureaucracy.

Deploying teams to future proof your business is key for example what if your biggest client is affected by Brexit, what if your logistics company folded, what if your top talent left to join a rival. If confidence comes from our preparation, then these activities help businesses to navigate uncertainty and turn disruption to their advantage.

Setting yourself and your teams up for the challenge is critical because your mindset will be the key to your success. So, whether you harness your core strengths and past success stories or look for inspiration from outside your business, you have to do something.


Welsh Social Enterprise Wins Major UK Award

A social enterprise that’s just won a major UK award for its spectacular 300 per cent growth has launched a new commercial venture to help others follow in their footsteps. Creating Enterprise, a subsidiary of housing association Cartrefi Conwy, has secured the licence to set up innovative Wales-wide learning and development programmes for companies, social enterprises and public bodies. The Social Enterprise Academy will be using the model trailblazed in Scotland that’s now been replicated across more than a dozen countries as far afield as Canada, China and Australia. Creating Enterprise, based in Mochdre, near Colwyn Bay, is working in partnership with the Wales Co-operative Centre who will be delivering the programmes in South Wales. The launch comes on the heels of news that Creating Enterprise was named as the Growth Champion at the NatWest bank’s prestigious SE100 Social Business Awards in London. Judges were impressed by the organisation’s rapid growth since it was established as a community interest company in 2015. The most recent accounts show an increase in sales of more than 300 per cent, from £1.3 million to £5.4 million, with profits increasing at the same rate. As well as maintaining properties, Creating Enterprise helps local people, including Cartrefi Conwy’s tenants, to find employment, training and volunteering opportunities. All of its commercial profits are reinvested into its highly-successful Employment Academy. The Social Enterprise Academy is a key part of the organisation’s ambitious growth plan and will also be using its profits for the benefit of Cartrefi Conwy tenants.

New World Rally Speed Stage to Give Colwyn Bay Economy a Boost

The seafront has undergone a multi-million pound redevelopment in recent years, including a water sports centre, the demolition of the pier and the opening of Porth Eirias Bistro, run by esteemed North Wales chef, Bryn Williams. But it has never witnessed anything like this; the sight and sound of turbocharged cars, equipped with high-tech four-wheel-drive systems and driven by the world’s most versatile drivers. Hugh Chambers, Chief Executive of Motorsport UK, organiser and promoter of Wales Rally GB, said the astonishing pace and precision of the latest generation of WRC vehicles will provide a memorable experience for visitors, businesses and residents. 

“The Saturday evening seafront spectacular will be different from anything Colwyn Bay has seen before; and a real contrast to the forests of rural Wales where most of the rally action takes place,”

           he said.

“Part of what we are doing with this year’s rally is to bring the raw excitement of the sport to places where many more fans can enjoy this excitement. Hopefully a good number of those gripped by what they experience in Colwyn Bay will then venture out to the forests to view world championship rallying in the wilds of Wales.”

Colwyn Bid is supposed to help local businesses in Colwyn Bay area... what does it means for Local Businesses?  For more info...

North Wales Company Launches “Next Generation” Respiratory Masks

A North Wales company has sold over 30,000 of its products in less than eight months. Core Protection Systems, which is based in St Asaph, manufactures respiratory masks for the health and safety industry. The company’s Corpro product range has been developed by Troy Baker and Phil Scott, who have over 50 years’ experience creating products in the field of respiratory protection. Troy is also the Managing Director of Design Reality, a globally recognised leader in innovative product design across the industrial, medical and consumer markets.

Brexit: The true litmus test for good leadership – or not

Brexit creates both opportunities and a threat for businesses – These 4 mindset hacks will help you cope.

Slowly but surely we are lumbering towards Brexit. Whatever the outcome, you as a business owner and team leader have to deal with the reverberations. From my background playing professional cricket, and through my current career in performance consultancy, I know a lot about the importance of a good mindset and managing self-discipline in tricky situations. Here are my four mindset hacks that you can apply to your business when dealing with Brexit.

1. Stop blaming others: Own the situation
2. Pressure is a privilege
3. Don’t micromanage – enable
4. Be fluid not fixed

North Wales


North Wales Builders’ Merchants Opens New 8,700 sq ft Site

A giant of the building trade continued its flying start to the year by opening a new branch on land which has lain empty for years.

The 8,700 square foot Huws Gray store and showroom in Whitchurch is already proving popular with the public and trade customers.

The three-acre base at Waymills was built from the ground up and features loading bays, exclusive lines and a top-quality kitchen, flooring and bathroom display area.

Manager Gavin Martin says there was great demand for another Huws Gray outlet in the region, to complement nearby sites in Wrexham and Shrewsbury.

Employing eight staff, he says they have big plans for the future and will expand the business over time.

“The first few weeks here have been absolutely fantastic, the response from the general public and local builders and trades has been so positive,”

said Gavin.

“They are really impressed with the offering and the layout, and the feedback is that Whitchurch has needed a store like this for a very long time.

“There is demand and this is a big catchment area, so we look forward to welcoming people in the months ahead.”

Now employing 1,800 staff at more than 100 sites across the UK, the Llangefni-based builders’ merchants has had a successful 12 months, acquiring Ridgeons – which had 40 branches across East Anglia – and holding a GIANT trade event in Colwyn Bay which was attended by more than 1,500 people.

Gavin, who began his 14-year career with Huws Gray as a counter sales assistant in Wrexham, believes the company ethos of supporting and promoting employees from within has helped to instil a culture of goodwill and hard work.

“I started out working on the shop floor and am now managing this new store, which is testament to the support and training I’ve been given during my time with the business,” said Gavin, former manager of the Ruthin outlet.

“I’ve worked my way up and saw this opportunity, so I’m absolutely delighted to be in this new position and look forward to many years here in Whitchurch.”

He added:

“As well as top brands such as Velux, Ox, Makita and Dickies, we are one of only a select number of branches that supplies the Farrow and Ball range, an industry leading collection of paints and wallpaper.

“That’s one of several partnerships we have with top names in the trade sector, and a real selling point for the Whitchurch branch.”

As Huws Gray continues to expand, create jobs and support the economy, Managing Director Terry Owen says the organisation will remain committed to the development of its workforce.

“Gavin is a fantastic example of how Huws Gray trains and develops its employees from the very beginning,”

he said.

“The staff are at the heart of everything we do, so promoting from within is very important to the company, providing opportunities for people to grow in tandem with the business.

“We congratulate Gavin on this new role and know he and the team will continue the Huws Gray tradition of top-class customer service and going above and beyond for our customers.

“The personal touch is what sets us apart from the rest, and that will always be our priority.”

For more information on the new Huws Gray store in Whitchurch, visit the website or call 01948 258303.


North Wales Business Programme Returns for 2019

 , 30TH JANUARY 2019   

North Wales Business Programme Returns for 2019


The Case for Investment in North Wales Rail Infrastructure

 , 30TH JANUARY 2019   

The Case for Investment in North Wales Rail Infrastructure


Additional work will be carried out by Transport for Wales to develop the case for investment in rail infrastructure in North Wales, Minister for Transport and Minister for North Wales Ken Skates has announced.

The supplementary work which has been commissioned by the Welsh Government follows the publication of The Case for Investment by Professor Mark Barry which identified a vision and objectives for improvements to the North Wales Main Line and the Wrexham-Merseyside line following extensive engagement with stakeholders.

The interventions would widen access to employment across North Wales, Cheshire and Liverpool by improving rail services and enhancing rail connectivity from North Wales to international gateways at Manchester and Liverpool airports.

The next step is further development, refinement and assessment of the packages identified in the Case for Investment such as the modernisation of the North Wales Main Line from Holyhead to Crewe including line speed improvements, integration with HS2 at Crewe, increased frequencies, and park & ride and bus integration at several stations along the Wrexham-Merseyside borderlands line.

This will complement the work being done by the UK Government, who are responsible for funding and delivering rail enhancements in Wales, to develop enhancements across Wales following the cancellation of electrification to Swansea.

Ken Skates said:

“Development and delivery of an ambitious and equitable programme of rail infrastructure improvements in North Wales needs to happen at pace and this is a matter I have previously made very clear to the Secretary of State.

“Today’s announcement is another important step in the right direction and a good example of the action the Welsh Government is taking. The further development of cases for rail enhancements in North Wales will include identifying requirements, timescales, scope and costs for future outline business case developments and I am pleased that Transport for Wales will be carrying out this stage of work.

“North Wales’ connectivity with economic hubs across the border is becoming more and more important and this will only increase following Brexit.

“Reducing journey times, ensuring better access to airports and improving rail network resilience in North Wales to accommodate future demand are just some of the issues which will be considered as part of the next stage of work.

“We are determined to see a real step change in our rail infrastructure which is deliverable for the benefit of passengers. I urge the UK Government to get on board with our aspirations.”



Welsh Government Support for Airbus Unwavering

 , 28TH JANUARY 2019  

Welsh Government Support for Airbus Unwavering

The Welsh Government is as committed as ever to working with Airbus to ensure the group continues to go from strength to strength in North Wales.

That was the message from Minister for Economy and Minister for North Wales, Ken Skates following a visit to the company in Broughton.

Airbus is the largest employer in Wales with 6,000 employees and Welsh Government support over the last twenty years has helped develop the Broughton site in Deeside into one of the most advanced wing and aerospace manufacturing facilities in the world.

The company has also been confirmed as the first tenant of Wales’ new flagship Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility which will be managed by The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The Welsh Government is investing £20m to develop the first phase of the facility and Airbus has a longstanding working relationship with the AMRC.

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility, which is being constructed just off Chester Road in Broughton, will be vital in helping increase productivity, commercialisation, innovation and skills development across a range of sectors including Aerospace.

Brexit was a key topic of discussion during the visit and Ken Skates stated the Welsh Government’s continued commitment to give the company a sustainable future and keep good quality jobs in the region.

The Minister also complimented Airbus’ Apprenticeship programme during his visit which has provided opportunities to hundreds of individuals in a range of roles.

Ken Skates said:

“Airbus is a vitally important company in North Wales and makes a huge contribution to the Welsh economy financially, through significant employment, skills development, fantastic apprenticeships and supply chain opportunities. The difference the company makes to the region and the country as a whole cannot be underestimated.

“We are continuing to work collaboratively and constructively with Airbus and I am pleased they will be the first company through the door of the new Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility. The aim of the facility is to provide a real step change in business support to encourage and increase collaboration between industry, academic partners and entrepreneurs and it is predicted that the first phase of the facility alone could drive up Welsh GVA (gross value added) by as much as £4bn over 20 years.

“Brexit was of course a topic that was high up on our agenda and while the UK Government’s approach to leaving the EU means businesses are still left with uncertainty and unanswered questions, I reiterated the Welsh Government’s absolute commitment to continuing our longstanding partnership with Airbus and doing all we can to support them. This was demonstrated in September when we allocated the company £3 million from our EU Transition Fund to help with its preparations for Brexit.

“Let me be clear that the Welsh Government is not standing still because of the Brexit dilemma. We will continue to nurture our close relationship with Airbus and will do all in our power to maximise employment opportunities, create new jobs and support the company in growing its base in Broughton.”

New Head Chef at Rhyl’s 1891 Restaurant Launches a New Seasonally-Inspired Menu

 , 28TH JANUARY 2019    

New Head Chef at Rhyl’s 1891 Restaurant Launches a New Seasonally-Inspired Menu


The new head chef at Rhyl’s flagship 1891 restaurant is cooking up a storm with an exciting new menu full of dishes that ‘speak for themselves’.

Andreas Leisinger, who has previously worked at a number of top restaurants in North Wales during his 14-year career, said he is looking forward to putting his own mark on 1891 and is launching a new range of seasonally inspired dishes at the restaurant this January.

As well as bringing a new mouth-watering menu to 1891, Andreas is passionate about creating delicious food for the whole family and will be hosting food-themed evenings which will include special offers and family discounts.

The first of these nights include a special offer of ‘2-for-1’ on main meals every Thursday, and then every Friday, Saturday and Sunday ‘Kids eat free’ with a full paying adult.

The 31-year-old, who is originally from Germany, said:

“I’m excited to be here. The restaurant itself just looks beautiful and so are the views. My focus will be on simple food with a modern feel. I try not to over complicate, using five or six ingredients and letting them speak from themselves, creating flavours and making the food exciting and sometimes a bit intriguing.

“My biggest passion is about flavour and produce, to use the produce to the best of its ability and showcase flavours on the menu in the right way, that is very important.

“I want to make dishes that are good enough to make people want to come back here to 1891 and enjoy it again and again and again. As head chef it is very important to make your customers happy.”

Andreas started his culinary education at the renowned Restaurant Wasserschloss Inzlingen in Germany before moving to Scotland and then Llandudno where he worked at the St George’s Hotel, the Quay Hotel and Spa, Deganwy, before becoming head chef at Chantrey’s restaurant, which was awarded two AA Rosettes, at the Imperial Hotel, Llandudno.

1891 offers high-quality food and drink in a stylish, elegant environment and is open to residents, visitors and theatre goers. The restaurant and bar is located on the waterfront at the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl and is part of Denbighshire County Council’s ongoing regeneration work in the town which also includes the SC2 visitor attraction, due to open this spring, and work on the Rhyl town masterplan. It forms part of the wider regeneration in the town which has included investment from the private sector.

Andreas said:

“I think the restaurant is in the right spot to do something big and be part of the big changes happening in Rhyl, all the investment. I think it is really exciting to be part of it.”

Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass Building Stage Underway

 , 28TH JANUARY 2019  

Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass Building Stage Underway


Minister for Economy and Transport and Minister for North Wales, Ken Skates has today officially marked the start of the construction phase on the Caernarfon and Bontnewydd bypass.

On a visit to cut the sod at the Cibyn Industrial Estate, the Minister said the scheme is a significant development for North West Wales which will relieve congestion and improve safety in the area.

The 9.8km bypass will be from the Goat roundabout on the A499/A487 junction to the Plas Menai roundabout around Llanwnda, Dinas, Bontnewydd and Caernarfon.

Construction of the bypass, which is being carried out in a joint venture by Balfour Beatty and Ruthin-based Jones Bros, could be completed by Autumn 2021.

Fencing the construction work extents and site clearance will take place shortly allowing the main earthworks operations to commence.

There will be local employment opportunities and placements for trainees, apprentices and graduates as part of the construction stage as well as a focus on local spend on materials and sub-contracts where possible. Meet the buyer events will be held in due course to encourage local people and companies to apply for work on the project.

Ken Skates said:

“I am delighted to mark the beginning of the construction phase on this significant infrastructure scheme in North West Wales.

“The Welsh Government is investing £135 million in the Caernarfon and Bontnewydd bypass which will deliver a real step change in how people travel. This means journeys for motorists will be quicker and more reliable and traffic congestion on local routes will reduced leading to improved active travel opportunities on which we are working with Sustrans and Gwynedd Council.

“This scheme can have a real positive impact on the area, both in the construction phase by providing local employment and training opportunities and after completion through improved connectivity for communities and better air quality. It will also be vital in delivering better links to tourist destinations.

“Alongside our plans for a third Menai crossing, the Abergwyngregyn to Tai’r Meibion Improvement scheme and proposals to remove the roundabouts at Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr on the A55, the construction of the Caernarfon and Bontnewydd bypass is another fantastic example of how we, as a government, are investing significantly in delivering for the region.”

North Wales Builder Doubles Turnover and Unveils Plans for Major Expansion in 2019

 , 25TH JANUARY 2019  

North Wales Builder Doubles Turnover and Unveils Plans for Major Expansion in 2019


One of the country’s most established building contractors has plans for major expansion in 2019 after doubling turnover.

Founded by Trevor George Williams in 1971, TG Williams is a leading name in the construction industry, employing up to 30 staff in Denbighshire.

Son Gary became managing director two years ago and has further strengthened the firm’s reputation in North Wales and beyond.

Since graduating from the ION Leadership programme last summer, Gary and the St Asaph business have gone from strength to strength.

TG Williams has reinvested profits back into the company, seen an increase in staff numbers and is winning new clients in the private and public sectors.

Gary says taking part in the Bangor University-based course helped build his confidence and instil a more strategic approach for the management team.

With plans to move to bigger premises and take on more workers in the future, the dad-of-two – who has been with the firm for 20 years – urges other directors and managers to sign up to the popular programme, which is aimed at organisations in north west Wales, with placements up to 70% subsidised by the European Social Fund via Welsh Government.

“When I left school, I enrolled at college to become a quantity surveyor, but the lure of joining the family business and having some money in my pocket meant I never managed to complete my qualifications,” said Gary.

“I started at the bottom and have worked my way up, learning all of the trades and working side by side with many of the people I now lead.

“Together we have plans to protect the reputation my father has built up over the decades, but I also felt it would be good for me personally to learn more about management to take the company forward, which is why I signed up to ION.

“I was a little nervous at first but came out of it feeling more confident; even just sitting down and speaking to like-minded people in similar roles was very useful and I’m still in touch with many of the people I was on the course with.”

TG Williams is now looking to relocate and has already identified sites nearby, so the business can grow to meet demand.

“We have around 30 employees on-site and in the office, but that doesn’t include the many sub-contractors we work with,” said Gary, who lives in St Asaph with wife Holly and daughters Georgia and Ruby.

“We have the contracts and potential to take on far more, but there are not the skilled tradespeople out there – there is a massive shortfall.

“That’s why training is important to us, in all areas of the business. ION has played a big part in improving my skills and vision as managing director, but we are looking at sharpening the skills and education of all our workers, for their development and the company’s.”

He added:

“We were expanding fast and wanted to expand further, and the lessons I learnt as part of ION will enable me to manage our direction.

“The programme has reinforced what we do and helped me to come up with new ideas, while delegating and encouraging input from everyone in the team.

“We have grown quite rapidly, which is amazing, but we won’t do that at the expense of the high standards we provide and the caring side of the business, which we are known for because of the drive and determination of my dad.

“We also know that the smaller, private residential projects and new-build developments are vital and the heartbeat of this business; they always have been and will continue to be important to us.

“I’ve a vision for where I want us to be, my dad has a very good name and I’m now the custodian of that reputation and I won’t ever forget that.”

Gwenllian Owen, Programme Manager of the ION Leadership programme, says the access to business information and advice via the course content and a series of top-level industry speakers has played a part in the growth of many firms across the region.

She added:

“It’s fantastic to hear about the success of TG Williams and Gary in particular.

“He is one graduate who really immersed himself in the programme and came out of it a more confident and driven business leader.

“We wish him every success for the future and look forward to seeing their exciting plans for growth come to fruition.”

Award-Winning Charity Brings its Skills and Expertise to Flintshire

 , 25TH JANUARY 2019   

Award-Winning Charity Brings its Skills and Expertise to Flintshire

An award-winning charity that has been operating for more than 40 years, has been commissioned to bring its skills and expertise to Flintshire.

DSN will now deliver the support services for people with a hearing loss or vision loss in the county for the next three years.

The North-West based charity also supports more than 100,000 people across Cheshire and the surrounding areas and has recently started to become the main service provider in Wrexham too.

Bob Birchall, CEO of DSN, said:

“We are very much looking forward to getting around Flintshire and working with people will all kinds of specialised needs across every part of the county. We have provided a Technical Assessment service in Flintshire for many years and are delighted to be building on this strong foundation to make a real difference to the lives of those living with a sensory loss.”

DSN provides day-to-day support for those with a hearing loss or visual impairment, including social care support, technical assessments and rehabilitation and enablement support too. Community support workers work across the community to complete home assessments and help with any additional needs. The services are provided free at the point of need.

The charity also provides support via projects, such as ‘I’m Hear’ – a programme for young people and their families, delivered thanks to funding from BBC Children In Need. It also operates a not-for-profit CIC, Positive Hearing, which aims to give people greater, fairer choice in relation to hearing equipment.

DSN is a leader in pioneering research into deafness and dementia and its links, most recently launching a study into how the two are assessed at primary care level. The team of 75, all of whom can use British Sign Language, also includes an array of dedicated and loyal volunteers and it has partnerships with several local authorities, governing bodies and other charities supporting the sensory loss community too.

Jane Davies, Senior Manager Safeguarding and Commissioning at Flintshire County Council said:

“We are delighted to have DSN onboard and we welcome their fresh approach to delivering sensory loss services to the people of Flintshire. Their innovative approach really impressed us from the beginning and we are looking forward to working with Bob and his team over the coming months and years.”

Workshops and meet and greet sessions will be taking place in various locations over the next few months. If you would like to learn more about DSN or get involved, contact or call 0333 220 5050.

Top North Wales Business Leaders Sign-up to Wrexham Industry Programme

 , 24TH JANUARY 2019    

Top North Wales Business Leaders Sign-up to Wrexham Industry Programme


Richard Williams, Director of Williams Financial Planning in Wrexham, and Deeside-based Comtek Network Systems’ HR Director Christine Sheibani are among the cohort to begin the new 20Twenty Business Growth Programme in Rossett.

Up to 30 senior managers and executives are in attendance on the course, which is 70% funded by the European Social Fund via Welsh Government.

Richard has been at the helm of the family firm for 10 years – alongside business partner Lee – and joined them in 1991.

He says the secret of their success is to keep learning and staying at the forefront of advances in the finance sector.

“We are always looking to better ourselves and the 20Twenty programme will give me the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals and develop my leadership skills and business planning strategies,” he said.

“We have 15 employees and regulation demands that we undertake continuous personal development (CPD) but we always strive for improvement and want to learn new skills to service our clients to the best of our abilities.”

Richard, a qualified coach and referee at Wrexham Rugby Club, added:

“We have developed a great team and had a very successful 2018. We have some fantastic opportunities in 2019 and want to hit the ground running to make the most of them.

“We are excited about some of the new software developments coming – not least the rollout of our new app – and I believe taking part in 20Twenty will give us a great start to the year so we can move forward with these developments.”

Christine Sheibani is also confident the course will benefit their organisation, a pan-European provider of repairs, spares and support to the telecoms, datacoms and network service arena.

She has been with the company – founded by her entrepreneur husband Askar 30 years ago – since 2005.

“The Comtek group has grown significantly and now incorporates Sorrento Networks UK and Sorrento Inc. We have around 60 workers in Deeside and smaller offices in Belfast, Reading, San Francisco, Frankfurt and Amsterdam,” she said.

“Our engineers need to keep abreast of technology and constantly update their knowledge of an ever-increasing range of repairs, so across all departments personal development is key, including human resources (HR).

“As a joint owner of the business I need to have sufficient knowledge in all areas of what we do in order to understand the impact of the decisions being made.

“I need to be able to take time to stand back and see the whole picture. I want to have a greater impact on our key strategies and feel that I need further knowledge and training to be able to do this, or at least to feel confident in my ability to do this.”

Christine added:

“I particularly want to learn from the finance modules of the course as this is something which I have not formally studied before.

“I also believe that learning from the other businesses on the course will be a great opportunity and look forward to hearing the motivational speakers which are planned.

“I hope that my company will be able to learn how to grow faster but in a sustainable and planned way. In turn this should lead to greater motivation and engagement for our employees.”

Students Take Over Award-Winning Welsh Restaurant Ahead of Collaboration Between Star Chefs

 , 24TH JANUARY 2019   

Students Take Over Award-Winning Welsh Restaurant Ahead of Collaboration Between Star Chefs


Learners from Coleg Cambria’s Catering and Hospitality courses prepared, cooked and served food for diners at Machine House restaurant in Rossett, Wrexham.

The popular venue – named Best Restaurant in Wales at the AA Hospitality Awards last year – works closely with the college and invited the youngsters to test out their own recipes on customers, as well as staff and chef owner, Kevin Lynn.

The event came after Cambria launched a new food academy with top chef Bryn Williams, giving students the opportunity to work and train in his celebrated restaurants, where they will gain invaluable experience alongside the best cooks and kitchen staff in the country.

In a twist, Kevin and his staff will be joining Bryn in the kitchen at his award-winning Porth Eirias restaurant in Colwyn Bay on January 31 for a takeover of their own, with each producing three dishes as part of a six-course tasting menu.

Collaboration between the culinary heavyweights and Cambria means the future of the region’s catering and hospitality industry is in safe hands, though Kevin says there is huge demand for more skilled workers.

“It was a pleasure to welcome the students to Machine House and a big deal for me to step away from the kitchen in my own restaurant and leave it in their hands,” said Kevin, from Warrington.

“That’s not something I’ve done before, and I’ve never sat down and been cooked for here either, so it was a first for all of us.

“They did really well, the menu and the food were terrific, and they were great at welcoming guests and the front-of-house side of things. The ideas they came up with were amazing and we hope to have them back again one day.”

Four students were responsible for front-of-house and the restaurant while five took to the kitchen with two chef lecturers, producing a five-course tasting menu for more than 20 guests.

Kevin says the vision of Bryn Williams – who also owns leading London restaurants Somerset House and Odette’s – is one he supports and vowed to do all he can to encourage the next generation of food and drink stars.

“I think the academy launched by Bryn and the college is a fantastic initiative and desperately needed, not just in Wales but the UK,” said the 47 year-old.

“I’ve personally found him something of an inspiration and believe my attitude to food is quite similar. His style is in producing simple yet attractive, delicious food with local ingredients that are big on flavour and that’s what we strive for as well.

“To be able to share the kitchen with him later this month will be a huge honour, and it’s also a great platform for Cambria’s students to be able to learn from him and his team – what an opportunity.”

He added:

“I just hope the students soak it all up and work hard, because one day they could be in this position.

“Machine House is my first restaurant so to have received such tremendous accolades within three years of opening is terrific, but it’s also testament to the effort and dedication we put in.

“That’s why we are keen to support Bryn and the college and bring forward the next generation, it’s such an exciting industry and one more young people should look into.”

Andy Woods, Deputy Director of Hospitality and Catering at Coleg Cambria, echoed those words and believes the backing of such talented chefs gives them the perfect recipe for success.

“Being given the opportunity to take over Machine House for the night was an incredible experience for our students and gave them a taste of what it’s like to serve food at a first-class restaurant,” he said.

“With a lot of interest already in the Bryn Williams Academy we are in a strong position to attract enthusiastic young trainees into the industry, something which is much needed.

“We are all passionate about Welsh produce and providing pathways into employment for the students, enriching them through work placements and ultimately addressing the demand for young, quality chefs, a problem which has really hit the hospitality arena.”

Wrexham Opticians Acquisition Backed by Development Bank

 , 23RD JANUARY 2019    

Wrexham Opticians Acquisition Backed by Development Bank


Local optician Huw Owens has taken over A1 Eyewear on Charles Street, Wrexham.

Established in 1986, A1 Eyewear was previously owned by Clare Hodinkson. Huw Owens has acquired the successful practice with the help of Business Wales and a £50,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales.

A1 Eyewear is one of Wrexham’s leading independent opticians offering eye tests, glasses, contact lenses and accessories along with a repair and maintenance service. As the new owner, Huw now has plans to further develop the range of eyecare services available.

He said:

“A1 Eyewear has a strong reputation for offering our loyal customers the highest possible standards of professional eyecare.

“Preventative eye care is so important but it is easy to neglect your eyes because they often don’t hurt when there’s a problem. Having a regular eye test is an important eye health check that will spot any early signs of eye conditions, many of which can be treated if found early enough.

“We will now be further developing our eyecare services and the range of eyewear that we provide including contact lenses, glasses and sunglasses. I’m really looking forward to working with our patients and am very grateful to both Business Wales and the Development Bank of Wales for their excellent support. Buying a business can be a nerve wracking experience but their thorough and seamless approach meant that I felt totally confident throughout the purchase.”

Anna Bowen is an Investment Executive with the Development Bank of Wales. She said:

“Our micro loans offer affordable and flexible funding for entrepreneurs looking to start, buy or grow a business. We’re here to lend a helping hand to professionals like Huw who have the aspiration and vision to build a successful local business at the heart of community life.”

Clive Barnard, Relationship Manager at Business Wales, added:

“Helping Huw to agree a business structure and develop a robust business plan has been an excellent example of how important it is for entrepreneurs to obtain appropriate business advice. Working so closely with the Development Bank of Wales provides business owners witht the opportunity to benefit from a simple access point to a range of business and funding opportunities.”

Businesses in Denbighshire are Looking Towards 2019

 , 23RD JANUARY 2019    

Businesses in Denbighshire are Looking Towards 2019

Businesses in Denbighshire have given their verdict on the county’s economy.

Despite a difficult trading environment affecting town centres across the UK and uncertainty over Brexit, the county’s traders are remaining positive according to Denbighshire County Council’s 2018 Business Survey.

More than 430 respondents took part in the annual survey, conducted by the Economic and Business Development Team, which helps inform the Council’s March for Business month.

It found almost three quarters of businesses (73 per cent) expected to increase customer numbers next year while 65 per cent expect to increase sales in 2019.

Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, Leader of Denbighshire County Council, said:

“We know it is a difficult time for high streets across the UK. That is why we have been supporting local traders with our #LoveLiveLocal campaign this Christmas, with free 1-2-1 sessions with business experts, as well as administering business rate relief in the county.

“The survey shows that despite uncertainty, Denbighshire businesses are working hard and planning for the future.

“It is also encouraging to see businesses talk about the positive interaction they have had with our planning and public protection team which supports businesses in a variety of ways as part of our Better Business for All scheme.

“Businesses have also told us about their training needs and we will make sure March for Business 2019 is tailored to meet those needs. During these difficult times we will continue to talk and listen to businesses and provide them with the support they need.”

Respondents also gave positive feedback on the improvements to mobile coverage, something Denbighshire County Council has been working with the Welsh Government and mobile providers on, while fewer businesses said they had issues collecting payment from debtors but more had issues securing loans.

Businesses also said training around social media, e-commerce, and improving the presentation of products were most important to them.

March for Business is four weeks of free workshops, networking events and advice sessions for businesses organised by Denbighshire County Council.

North Wales Adventure Hub Brings Historic Mountain Home Back to Life

 , 22ND JANUARY 2019   

North Wales Adventure Hub Brings Historic Mountain Home Back to Life


The Slate Caverns in Snowdonia, North Wales, continues to add to its growing portfolio of adventure experiences with the launch of a unique slate mountain hotel.

The 24-bedroom ‘Slate Mountain Lodge’ will serve guests visiting the Slate Caverns heritage and adventure hub in North Wales, home to some of the UK’s most popular adventure experiences, including the Slate Mountain Adventure and Llechwedd Deep Mine tours, Zip World Titan & Caverns, Bounce Below and the Antur Stiniog downhill mountain bike trails. Over a quarter of a million people visit the site every year.

The restored 19th century mountain lodge played a significant part in Welsh history: for over 150 years it was home to the Greaves family who founded the mine at Llechwedd in the 1830s. Its elevated position commands spectacular views across the historic Llechwedd site – once one of the busiest mines in the world – and the Moelwyn mountain range beyond. 

Michael Bewick, managing director of The Slate Caverns said:

“Our beautiful new hotel is part of a £1.5 million investment programme which got underway with the launch of our luxury glamping lodges last spring.

“The development has been a particularly exciting project for us because of its very pertinent place in our history. The Greaves family lived at the lodge until 1970s and the building was subsequently used as offices for the mine’s managers. To bring back to life a building which played such a significant part in Welsh history is wonderful thing, it adds a very authentic extra dimension to the visitor experience.”

Doors opened to the hotel’s first guests in the first week of January 2019, but every room is already fully booked out for the rest of the year. An engineering firm engaged to carry out maintenance on Llechwedd’s hydroelectricity infrastructure will stay there until January 2020. The hotel will have a public launch in spring 2020, after a refresh to develop the hotel to four-star status. Bookings will go live later in 2019.

The Slate Mountain Lodge will be a four-star rated hotel with 24 ensuite bedrooms as well as wedding and events facilities. A smart restaurant and bar will showcase local produce, and the hotel’s fixtures and furnishings will have a distinctly Welsh feel. Already employing a team of six, the hotel will generate 23 new jobs when it opens to the public in 2020. The £1.5 million development has been part-funded by the Welsh Government.


Work on Denbighshire Wind Farm Complete

 , 22ND JANUARY 2019   

Work on Denbighshire Wind Farm Complete


The first wind farm to be built from scratch in the UK by Chinese developer CGNEE is generating electricity for the first time following its completion.

Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK has finished delivering balance of plant at the 16-turbine Brenig renewables site in Denbighshire.

Commissioning work, supervised by the company’s workforce, is now taking place before the project is handed over to CGNEE’s UK asset management team with turbine performance being monitored by CGN’s headquarters in Shenzhen and Paris.

Appointed as principal contractor in mid-2017, the Ruthin-based firm has upgraded 6km of existing access roads, built crane pads and turbine bases, carried out on-site cabling works, and constructed a control building.

It also built a temporary quarry to source material for the bases on site, minimising the number of vehicular journeys required along local roads.

In addition, Jones Bros retained responsibility for safety at the site, including the delivery and erection of turbines by third party partners.

The company also carried out early preparatory works at Brenig, building access roads for other contractors to use when harvesting and exporting timber to make way for the wind farm.

The final stage of activity involved reinstatement work, which included the dismantling and removal of the site compound, as well as distributing top soil around the outer edges of all turbine bases, crane pads, and access tracks.

The scheme is one of the latest wind energy projects led by Jones Bros, with technical staff and construction operatives transferred to work on the nearby 27-turbine Clocaenog Forest Wind Farm, for which Jones Bros was appointed balance of plant contractor in early 2018.

Once fully operational, the 37.6MW Brenig site will have the capacity to power more than 25,000 UK homes.

Jones Bros site agent, Rhys Roberts, said:

“We’re pleased to have reached the completion stage of this ground-breaking project for the client.

“Each turbine base required 500 cubic m3 of concrete and 48 tonnes of reinforcing steel, with 40 workers on site at the peak of construction.

“We faced some challenging conditions, particularly with the weather, working throughout the year, but our team overcame all obstacles to ensure the job was finished to a high standard.

“The development has given the area’s economy a boost through workers’ pay packets being reinvested locally, and further enhances Jones Bros’ reputation as a leader in the renewable energy sector.”

Wang Zong, project manager at CGNEE, said:

“We extremely appreciate our association with Jones Bros. We would like to congratulate Jones Bros for completing all the works within the time frame with quality and safety. All of the technical staff deployed by the organisation were highly experienced, efficient, and motivated in their fields of work.

“Our successful cooperation is essential to boost the local economy and regional construction industry jobs.

“We’re delighted to collaborate with Jones Bros for the future development.”

Established in the 1950s, Jones Bros is now being run by the second and third generations of the founding family and employs more than 350 people.

In addition to renewable energy, it works on projects including the construction of waste management facilities, highways, and flood and marine defence projects around the UK.

North Wales Company Expands into the Middle East on Back of Export Success

 , 18TH JANUARY 2019   

North Wales Company Expands into the Middle East on Back of Export Success


An award-winning company in Flintshire has expanded its business into the Middle East for the first time after securing a 7.5-million-pound contract in the region as part of the company’s strategy to grow its global presence through exports.

Hawarden-based Cokebusters is a manufacturing and service provider that specialises in the maintenance of furnace and fired heaters tubes at oil refineries across the world.

The company, a world leader in decoking and inspection operations, has seen its sales rise by 41% in the last two years to over £6 million, thanks to export sales, which make up 95% of the firm’s trade.

The company currently exports to over 20 countries including the USA, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Greece, Kuwait, Italy and Spain, with its skilled engineers travelling to oil refineries across the world.

This new five-year contract in Abu Dhabi with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will provide pigging and de-scaling services for steam generators and boilers in the Middle East worth in excess of £7.5 million. The deal is an important step in Cokebusters’ international growth strategy, where the oil rich Middle East is a vital territory.

The move is another overseas success for the company, which this year has also renewed its contracts with two major oil companies in Europe.

Commercial Manager at Cokebusters, Duncan Cully, said:

“We’re very proud to sign a major contract in the Middle East. You can only grow so much in a limited market which is why we have focused our growth overseas. We’re looking forward to expanding our business into even more territories as we continue to develop our machinery.”

Cokebusters is one of a group of Welsh businesses that recently exhibited at the International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) following support from Welsh Government, accessed through Business Wales. The world’s largest trade show for the oil and gas sector takes place in Abu Dhabi each year and gives businesses the opportunity to meet influencers and experts from a range of markets in the region, including UAE and Oman.

Earlier this year, Cokebusters received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade Category. It was one of only 230 British companies to receive the prestigious prize, which is awarded to businesses for outstanding achievement in international trade, innovation and sustainable development.

Alongside Cokebusters’ headquarters in Hawarden, which employs 35 people, the company also has a base in the USA, enabling the firm to provide the highest quality service to oil refineries all over the world. The company increased its workforce by 15 per cent in the last year as export activities have continued to grow.

This year, the company expects to exceed its sales target of £7.5 million by at least ten to fifteen per cent thanks in large part to developing its export business.

Duncan added:

“Wales is a world leader in engineering and creativity and our team at Cokebusters has a wealth of industrial experience, meaning that we can develop innovative technologies which enable us to best serve our clients.

“Cokebusters continues to grow and is always looking to penetrate new markets abroad. As a world leader at inspection technology, we are also planning to update our software in the near future, which will provide us with more opportunities to expand our export services even further.”

North Wales Ice Cream Maker’s Expansion Plans Get Green Light

 , 17TH JANUARY 2019   

North Wales Ice Cream Maker’s Expansion Plans Get Green Light


Chilly Cow Ice Cream Ltd is set to increase production after Denbighshire County Council planners gave the growing company the nod to build a new production plant.

The news came at the end of a successful year for Chilly Cow which is owned and run by husband-and-wife team David and Anna Taylor.

With tens of thousands of ice cream pots made and delivered every year the expansion will enable the firm, which currently employs a team of three, to increase production and take on more staff.

Anna, the driving force behind Chilly Cow’s day-to-day activities, said:

“2018 was our best year yet. In just four years, we’ve gone from having a little idea to running a rapidly-growing company. We’ve new stockists coming on board all the time and have recently entered into a partnership with Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

“The increased demand for our range means we need more space to make and store our ice cream. Last year we made 18,000 litres of ice cream and, looking to the future, we’re hoping to increase annual production by 20 per cent. A new production plant will represent a big investment for us, but we are determined to keep making ice cream in Denbighshire, creating local jobs for local people.

“Last year’s long, hot summer was superb for business and we need to maintain that momentum creating more products to meet the increasing number of orders. We’re delighted at the decision to allow the development to go ahead and can now look at moving the project on.”

The new plant, which will house new production facilities, storage, freezers, and staff facilities, will be based at Chilly Cow’s Stryt Fawr Farm at Llanychan, near Ruthin. The farm’s herd of 90 Brown Swiss cows produce the milk for the ice cream.

Despite supermarkets knocking on Chilly Cow’s farm door, Anna, a Denbighshire tourism ambassador, insists they want to keep their products in North Wales.

“We’ve had offers from some of the big supermarkets, but we want to continue supporting local businesses. I’d far rather people popped into their local store and shopped on the high street.

“Independent businesses are essential to our way of life and that’s why we’re determined to keep making our products in the Vale of Clwyd, in a place where people can drop-in and visit us,” added Anna.

Anna has also invested in a new Moo Mobile and Moo Cart, enabling the company to not only better deliver their range of 14 ice creams to wholesalers but tap into growing wedding trends too.

She said:

“We’ve seen a real spike in requests to supply our products at weddings. The Moo Cart is providing to be very popular with couples looking for something a little different for their receptions and we already have plenty of bookings for this year.

“Chilly Cow’s future is hotting up, we’ve won awards including Best Rural Food Business for Wales and Northern Ireland and with a new flavour set to be launched soon our future is very promising.”

North Wales Mushroom Company Set for Rapid Expansion

 , 16TH JANUARY 2019    

North Wales Mushroom Company Set for Rapid Expansion


A shared love of Welsh poetry has led to the rapid expansion of a Gwynedd mushroom-growing company.

The Mushroom Garden – Snowdonia, has already tasted success in producing fresh and dried Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms for customers including restaurants, hotels and the National Trust.

However, as the family-run business has blossomed, so has the need for more growing space.

As a result of the formation of a new partnership, the business is set to increase its capacity five-fold, with the weekly production of Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms estimated to rise from 200kg to around 1 tonne per week.

Thirteen years ago, interest in fungi and foraging led Cynan and June Jones to try their hand at cultivating mushrooms at their smallholding at Nantmor near Beddgelert.

“At that time there was a European Union-funded programme being run by Bangor University and Gwynedd County Council which looked at what alternative high-value crops could be grown in the area,” explains Cynan, who previously worked in financial services.

“We knew a bit about mushrooms anyway, and we were taken on as a pilot scheme. At the end of the programme, we carried on.”

Unlike conventional mushrooms which grow in compost, the Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms are grown in polytunnels, chemical-free on special Welsh oak blocks.

However, while still around 15% of the business, fresh mushrooms have a limited shelf life. Wishing to cut back on the potential for waste, Cynan and June began drying their mushrooms to extend their use.

By powdering and seasoning the mushrooms, they have created a whole range of products.

Says Cynan:

“We are quality food producers and are eager to develop new opportunities and markets with our range of products based on mushrooms – products which are suitable for all types of dishes such as meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes.”

Operating from a commercial kitchen which they created from a building at the rear of their house, their mushroom-based seasonings include Shiitake, and an Oyster Mushroom-based HerbShroom.

Also, in collaboration with The Anglesey Sea Salt Company / Halen Môn, The Mushroom Garden has developed the famed Japanese seasoning – Umami. Identified as the ‘fifth taste’, Umami helps accentuate deep and savoury flavours of dishes.

Says Cynan, who has become an authority on fungi and runs courses and foraging walks:

“It’s a privilege to work with other food producers, and we are looking to work with more producers.”

Such has become the popularity of The Mushroom Garden’s products that extra growing capacity has become a necessity – now provided by Montgomeryshire beef and sheep farmers, Arwyn and Gwenllian Davies.

Arwyn, who farms 320 acres near Llanerfyl, has known Cynan for some years, as they share a love of writing poetry and became friends.

Says Arwyn:

“We’ve known each other a long time, I’ve taught cynghanedd (a style of Welsh poetry), and over the years Cynan and I would see each other at eisteddfodau.

“Gwenllian and I were looking to diversify on the farm and looked at different options, but nothing quite suited our situation. Cynan said they were looking to expand and mushrooms fitted the bill.”

Arwyn has installed two polytunnels, with a combined length of 110ft by 20ft, in which in the coming year (2019) they aim to produce around 40 tonnes of mushrooms.

“The increase in production means we can take on new contracts as well as servicing existing customers,” says Cynan.

The pair will be revealing their expansion plans and new products to potential customers and collaborators at an event in Montgomery next week.

The Mushroom Garden has been helped in its progression by Cywain -– a Menter a Busnes delivered project that supports the development of growth orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.

“Cywain has helped us a heck of a lot,” says Cynan. “They have been there from the very start, in terms of business development support and getting us into some of the best trade events.”

Says Cywain Development Manager, Marial Edwards:

“It’s great to see a partnership and business model forming such as this, which leads to business expansion and the potential to access new markets and create new jobs in another region in Wales.”

North Wales Business Gains Accreditation to Protect Sensitive Client Data

 , 16TH JANUARY 2019  

North Wales Business Gains Accreditation to Protect Sensitive Client Data


An investment and financial planning company based in North Wales has been awarded a UK certification for protecting sensitive client data.

RPG Wealth based in St Asaph now has an IASME certification – the scheme for delivering best practice for information security. It includes the Government and National Cyber Security Centre’s own scheme Cyber Essentials and brings the business in line with the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

RPG Director, Julian Redmond said:

“Our clients trust us with their financial information. They are busy people and don’t need the additional burden of worrying about whether their data and that of their clients is safe. Going through the security processes and legal requirements to become accredited helped us, as a business, better understand the potential pitfalls and more importantly the solutions needed to protect both our data and theirs.

“When organisations are looking for a firm to help them with investments and financial planning we can show them our accreditations and they can be confident we have everything in place to the highest standard of Government schemes.”

The company worked with specialist risk management and cyber security experts, Risk Evolves  on the accreditations and certifications.

RPG’s Julian Redmond said:

“We were keen to bring in Risk Evolves because we wanted recommended and independent experts in the field to review our procedures. We work as auditors for a wide range of organisations and understand the value of having someone independent come in to provide support and training and take a forensic approach to the work.”

Managing Director of Risk Evolves, Helen Barge said many organisations were often held back by fear of the unknown when it came to managing their risk – particularly in the area of cyber security.

She said:

“By giving people a clear and simple route to follow, putting systems in place and working closely with them to support them through the process, they realise they don’t have to fear new laws like GDPR. Instead they can use them to look afresh at how they manage their data and the security they have in place.

“Doing accreditations and certifications gives them a road map, and shows those who they do business with, that they take these things seriously. Our role is to make the whole process run smoothly so they can get on with running their business.”

North Wales Tech Firm Celebrates Achievements of its Apprentices

 , 16TH JANUARY 2019    

A North Wales tech company is celebrating the successes of its apprentices.

Pinacl Solutions says it is delighted with the achievements of three young apprentices and is keen to take on more young talent.

Rhys Harper joined the St Asaph-headquartered business as an Apprentice Project Manager but such was his progress he was promoted to Project Manager six months ahead of schedule.

Louis Anglesea and Zac Davies joined Pinacl as apprentices in the company’s accounts team.

Zac has successfully completed his apprenticeship, passing his Level 3 Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) exams. He is now Pinacl’s Management Accounts Assistant.

Louis has passed his Level 2 AAT exams and is now working towards his Level 3, after which he will become a qualified Accounts Assistant.

Sue Davies, Pinacl’s HR Director, said:

“We are passionate about creating opportunities for and developing young talent and we have been delighted with the fantastic progress that has been made by our three apprentices.

“All three have shown huge commitment and a real desire to learn and develop and we look forward to continuing to watch their progress over the coming years.

“We are also keen to bring on other young apprentices, continuing to create jobs in the North Wales economy.”

Rhys said:

“I am extremely proud of what I have achieved and I cannot thank Pinacl enough for the support they have given me. I am looking forward to the next chapter in my career.”

Pinacl works across the UK providing public and private sector organisations with a range of innovative digital transformation solutions. The company is over 35 years old and employs almost 50 staff.

Its innovative products include cutting-edge sensor technology to enable social housing providers to maintain their properties and improve tenant health.

A growing number of social housing providers are using the company’s sensors to slash their maintenance bills by detecting issues such as damp, fuel poverty and abandoned properties.

Among early adopters of the technology are Newport City Homes, Halton Housing and City of York Council.

Pinacl provides a full end-to-end solution from sensor, Internet of Things (IoT) network to application dashboard. The sensors monitor humidity, temperature and Co2 and are able to provide hourly readings on to the dashboard.

Businesses Invited to Apply for a Share of £6.2M Funding to Deliver Support Scheme

 , 15TH JANUARY 2019 

Businesses Invited to Apply for a Share of £6.2M Funding to Deliver Support Scheme


Local therapists and other businesses are being invited to apply for a share of £6.2m funding to help combat work sickness absence across Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd.

Pioneering social enterprise Rhyl City Strategy (RCS Wales) is inviting providers of physical and psychological therapies, and legal and financial support, to help deliver their flagship In Work Support Service.

It comes after Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport Ken Skates announced £6.2m EU and Welsh Government funding package to continue the In Work Support service for another four years.

The In Work Support service provides free and confidential support to people experiencing common mental and physical health conditions ranging from musculoskeletal issues to stress, helping them to return to work after sickness absence.

It also helps to improve the wellbeing and productivity of people whose health condition is limiting their ability to work effectively, supporting them to stay in work.

In the past three years the In Work Support Service has helped over 3,400 employed or self-employed people to improve their health and wellbeing at work.

RCS Wales is now on a mission to find the region’s best providers to deliver some of the key services covered by the IWS programme.

Contracts up for grabs include those for physiotherapy, osteopathy, psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), counselling, chiropody, podiatry, dietetics, employment law support and financial capability support.

It comes as RCS Wales is this year celebrating ten years as a social enterprise supporting employees and employers across Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in Rhyl and another base in Bangor, is holding a Meet the Buyers event in Conwy Business Centre on January 15 with further small group sessions in January 2019 to provide additional guidance with the tender process.

Alison Thomas Operational Director at RCS Wales, said:

“We are delighted that we have been allocated £6.2m in additional EU and Welsh Government funding.

“This significant funding boost will allow us to continue our work in supporting employees and business owners to create healthy, positive and productive workplaces until December 2022.

“We are now in a position to begin recruiting providers to help us deliver the programme, and continue our focus on reducing absenteeism, particularly in SMEs.

“We will be recruiting physical therapists, psychological therapists and providers other services such and legal and financial support, to enable us to enhance our work with employers and employees to improve attendance and wellbeing at work.

“Anyone we have worked with before is welcome to apply as are those who have not. We are keen to speak with as many providers as possible to ensure we have the best cohort of experts in our network.”

Ms Thomas said:

“The In Work Support Service provides vital support to help keep employees in work in the face of individual health challenges.

“It brings enormous, life changing benefits both for employed and self-employed people and for the North Wales business community as a whole.”

She added:

“In addition in 2019, we will also be looking for more employers to work with, to help shape targeted solutions to suit their workforces, and delivering courses in topics including resilience, motivation and sleep.”

The In Work Support Service is part-funded by European Social Funding through the Welsh Government.

Mr Skates revealed a total £9.4m additional funding for the In Work Support Service, at a special event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of RCS in November.

Of this, £6.2m was allocated to RCS Wales and  £3.2m was awarded to Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU), which delivers the service in South Wales.

RCS Wales is a not-for profit social enterprise that helps people enter, sustain and progress in employment through improving health and wellbeing and employability. It was set up in 2008 and employs 17 people.

So far the In Work Support service has helped 3,400 employed or self-employed people to get back up and running following a period of ill health.

Clients contact the service for support with common mental health or musculo-skeletal conditions that are having a negative impact on them at work, and putting them at risk of long-term absence.

The support helps employees to return to work or to full productivity, thereby saving their employers the cost of further sick pay and cover, and gives clients the tools to manage their own wellbeing after they have left the service.

The service also provides training and support for small to medium sized businesses who are looking to reduce absenteeism and improve wellbeing in the workplace.

Over 200 employers have already attended half-day workshops on a range of wellbeing topics. This element of the service will be strengthened through the new funding, allowing RCS to respond to employer requests for workplace training to help employees improve confidence, motivation and resilience.

Announcing the funding Mr Skates said:

“The cost to the Welsh economy of work-related ill health is estimated at £500 million per annum and we know that SME employers and their employees are disproportionately affected by sickness absence at work.

“That is one of the reasons why our new Economic Contract encourages businesses to promote good health in the workplace.

“To further support this ambition I am pleased to announce an additional £9.4m for the In Work Support Programme.

“I hope this will help to prevent people with common health conditions from falling out of work, and will also encourage businesses to build healthier work places.”

The In Work Support programme was launched across Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey in 2015 and is aimed at employees of small to medium sized businesses, who may not otherwise have access to occupational health support.

The programme aligns with the Welsh Government’s Prosperity for All plan as well as its Economic Action Plan, Employability Plan and its Health strategy – A Healthier Wales.

North Wales Bakery Gears up for Expansion

 , 14TH JANUARY 2019  

North Wales Bakery Gears up for Expansion


A family-run business is gearing up for the opening of their second bakery with the creation of 20 new jobs in Denbigh.

The ovens on Henllan Bakery’s new cake and biscuit making facility on Denbigh’s Colomendy Industrial Estate will fire up in an expansion that has already seen the company take on the new staff.

They are all trained up now and part of a 94-strong workforce as the business continues to grow.

They have just received a helping hand from neighbours Lock Stock Self-Storage who have supplied them with four 20-foot containers to store cardboard cake boxes for their range of new products.

It brings to six the number of containers they have bought from Lock Stock and which they also use to house a maintenance workshop, equipment and parts as well as to store packaging and materials for recycling.

Their bread and butter remains bread though baps also boomed through a barbecue summer and their customers range from big guns like Tesco, Asda and Morrisons to corner shops and North Wales’s holiday parks.

The new bakery is ready to come on stream and Production Director Tom Moore said:

“We have grown massively and we had to make a decision to move and get bigger premises.

“The opening of the new bakery has meant lots of planning and the creation of new jobs and lots of apprenticeships aimed at bringing the next generation of bakers through.

“We have used containers from Lock Stock for a long time now and have bought six in the last 18 months and having Lock Stock on our doorstep been wonderful for us because we can just pick up the phone and they react quickly.

“They have been a massive help for us in expanding and because the first factory was virtually landlocked there was a shortage of space for us there and using containers for storage has been the best option.”

Lock Stock Director Shon Powell said:

“We go back a long way with Henllan Bakery – I used to go to scouts in Henllan and the old bakery was next door.

“We’ve known them for years and they’ve been using our containers for ten years and now that we have our own delivery service with our own lorry we can react even more quickly.

“Containers make a lot of sense for businesses because they offer a flexible solution, they aren’t liable for business rates, they’re very secure and because they’re built to withstand long sea voyages in the open air they’re tough and durable.

“We’re also happy to help a local business prosper and expand because Henllan Bakery has been brilliant for the area and for the town.”

The new bakery has been brought on line to take advantage of customer fashions and Tom added:

“Cakes and desserts are very much on trend now, we’re also starting to do biscuits here and we’ve invested in this bakery so we can continue to grow.”

Shon Powell added:

“Henllan Bakery are always looking to diversify and to react to the market and that’s something that’s worked for us too.

“Lock Stock started because we reacted to a demand and it has grown in response to demand and our own move into container sales came about because customers asked us about buying containers.

“So whether it’s cakes or containers you always have to look at ways you can diversify – you can’t afford to stand still in business.”

Lock Stock now has 18 sites across North and Mid Wales and the Border Counties and also operates a van-hire business, Take Stock, from three hubs at Llandudno, Chester and Rhyl – they also sell fireworks at Chester, Rhyl and Llandudno and on-line.

Their existing sites stretch from Bangor along the North Wales coast at Llandudno and Rhyl, on the Dee at Flint and Chester and inland at Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Solar Power No Longer Needs Subsidies Says Renewable Energy Boss

 , 11TH JANUARY 2019   

Solar Power No Longer Needs Subsidies Says Renewable Energy Boss


It’s time for solar power to go solo and axe the cash incentives, according to one of North Wales’s leading renewable energy providers.

David Jones, Managing Director of Denbigh-based Hafod Renewables, said it’s time for solar energy to pay its own way and he has backed the Government decision to scrap their subsidies for solar power next March.

The decision – which has caused an outcry in the renewable energy industry – is the right one according to David who says that solar power can now hold its own against oil, gas and conventional electric competitors.

He said:

“The tariffs are still available until March so if you sign up for a solar system before then you are still eligible but after that it will have to stand on its own two feet.

“To be honest the time is right for that to happen. Solar power isn’t a Cinderella-style operation any more. It’s a real contender and one with a better, cheaper long-term future than fossil-fuel or even nuclear generated power.”

Hafod, which was founded in Denbigh by David, a graduate in renewable energy, and his father, Richard, in 2010, has grown to employ nine people and has a turnover of £1.5 million.

Initially solar panel installation made up over 80 per cent of their business but gradually there was a move towards air and ground-source systems which overtook solar with over 60 per cent of Hafod’s business.

Earlier this year they were named as Wales’s top Renewable Heating Initiative installer, a field which covers air and ground-source as well as biomass systems, but solar is bouncing back.

In the last 12 months increasingly efficient and cheaper solar panels, often combined with sophisticated battery technology, have seen solar energy become more popular again.

There has still been predictable opposition to the Government‘s plans from the renewables sector and Frank Gordon, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said the planned change would be “very damaging” for the industry.

“Our members are very concerned,” he said. “There are thousands of small-scale installers, 40% of whom say they could exit the solar installation market.

“That could mean 6,000 job losses for the sector if the Government follows through with this.”

Households in the feed-in tariff scheme – introduced in 2010 – are paid for the electricity they generate for themselves and for the excess energy they export onto the grid for others and can typically save up to £600 a year on their energy bills and receive around £250 per year in tariff payments.

But David, who has gone virtually off-grid at home in Trefnant, near Denbigh, with a combination of solar and air-source power which he also uses to charge his all-electric Tesla 4×4 and his partner, Jen’s, Mitsubishi Plug in hybrid, says solar is ready for the challenge.

He said:

“Solar is still worth it. The price of solar has fallen 80 percent in seven years, battery storage is now affordable and you can store the energy you generate for when you need it.

“We’re on the brink of an energy revolution. Coal is being phased out and nuclear energy is at record low levels due to under-investment in the sector and this year renewables accounted for over 30 per cent of the power used in the UK.

“Householders equipped with solar and battery will benefit the most as they will be able to charge their batteries with cheap electricity and use it in peak periods which not only saves their wallet but also helps stabilise the national grid.

“At times of high generation and low demand such as a windy, sunny Sunday afternoon the price of wholesale electricity can actually go negative which means the energy supplier pays you for taking electricity off their hands.

“Currently at peak periods, the national grid commission ‘peaking plants’ to make up the shortfall in electricity and this can be extremely costly and carbon intensive as most of the plants are diesel generators or gas turbines.

Hafod Renewables, also named as one of the UK’s top three Renewable Heating Installers, has become a key player in the region in the installation of solar and non-solar systems.

Most of their clients have been domestic systems but they have also installed solar systems on almost 100 farms and a recent ground-source system at a 16,000-hen egg farm, while other clients have included businesses, including one of Wales’s biggest boatyards, and a rugby club.

Coleg Cambria Achieves Best Ever Work-Based Learning Inspection Result for Wales from Estyn

 , 11TH JANUARY 2019    

Coleg Cambria Achieves Best Ever Work-Based Learning Inspection Result for Wales from Estyn

The college received the best work-based learning (WBL) inspection in Wales to date from Estyn, the education and training inspectorate.

The ambition, skill and enthusiasm of learners, economic impact, staff progression and burgeoning links with industry heavyweights across North Wales were praised, as was the leadership of chief executive David Jones and his management team.

Cambria and its partners – including Jones Bros civil engineers in Ruthin, NACRO, Pendine Park Care Organisation, Redrow Homes, Total People, and Plato Training – are the fifth largest provider of apprenticeships in the country.

Mr Jones welcomed the report and said Cambria – which has sites in Northop, Wrexham, Deeside and Llysfasi – will continue to work hard to further improve its offering and retain its position among the elite.

“The result of this inspection reflects the hard work of staff and the strong relationships we have built with some of the finest training providers and companies in north and mid-Wales,” said Mr Jones.

“We offer such a variety of programmes in areas as diverse as upholstery, retail, engineering and manufacturing to business administration and law, and all of them are at a high level of quality and care.

“Importantly, we work with our learners to ensure the traineeship, apprenticeship or work-based learning course they take is going to help them to find the best possible career when they leave us.

“I would like to thank our employees, the Board of Governors and the many incredible organisations we work alongside for helping us to achieve yet another excellent inspection result.”

John Clutton, chair of the governing body at Coleg Cambria, added the results were testament to the “clear and consistent” progress made since 2013, when the institution was borne of the merger between Yale and Deeside colleges.

“There has been significant and steady growth since that time,” said Mr Clutton.

“Not only in the size and stature of Cambria but the strong relationships made with some of the leading names in industry, companies and educators who have collaborated with us on this journey to excellence.

“Well done to all of the staff, the students and the management team, who have a positive vision for the future and are delivering brilliant results year on year.”

Inspectors highlighted the “consistently strong” rates at which learners achieve their apprenticeship frameworks, adding that senior managers provide “clear strategic direction” for the delivery of Cambria’s work-based learning contract with Welsh Government.

The report added:

“The provider’s self-evaluation processes are highly effective and have a clear focus on improving learner outcomes and experiences. The provider has formed outstanding working relationships with the broad range of employers it works with, and as a result, outcomes have remained consistently high over the last three years as learners develop the level of practical skills and theory knowledge that enable them to sustain employment.

“The chief executive officer has very strong links with employers and key strategic groups, which enables the provider to develop customised, responsive provision which meets employer needs and plays a valuable strategic role in the regional economy.”

Leading North Wales organisations working in partnership with Cambria congratulated the college on another outstanding report.

Among them was Mario Kreft MBE, proprietor of the award-winning Pendine Park Care Organisation in Wrexham.

“Our ongoing partnership with Coleg Cambria has been of great benefit in ensuring we have an appropriately qualified and skilled workforce to work in social care which is now seen by the Welsh Government as a foundation sector for the economy of Wales,” said Mr Kreft.

“The glowing praise contained in the report published by Estyn is richly deserved because Coleg Cambria has yet again set a new benchmark for other further education colleges to aspire to.”

Karen Jones, Group Human Resources Director at Flintshire-based Redrow Homes, added:

“Many congratulations to Coleg Cambria on their excellent Estyn Report.

“We are delighted to be working with Cambria on developing innovative and flexible programmes for the workplace and are proud that the inspectors have recognised the strength of their approach and their willingness to understand our business priorities and the requirements of modern construction.”

Zip World Set to Expand Following New Investment

 , 10TH JANUARY 2019   

Zip World Set to Expand Following New Investment


Zip World, the award-winning outdoor adventure business which features the world’s fastest zip line, has secured a significant minority investment from leading mid-market private equity investor LDC, supported by the company’s existing banking partner, HSBC. The deal values the business at £45m.

The business runs adventure experiences across three scenic locations in the iconic Snowdonia mountain range in North Wales. It offers multiple activities including ziplines, an alpine rollercoaster, treetop adventure courses and subterranean playgrounds equipped with high-rope walks and nets.

Its site in Penrhyn Quarry is home to the world’s fastest zipwire Velocity 2, on which riders can travel at speeds of up to 125mph, and it boasts Europe’s highest giant swing Skyride at its location in Fforest.

LDC’s investment will support Zip World’s ongoing growth strategy as it looks to add new attractions to its current sites and rollout its adventure experiences across the UK and beyond. The business is aiming to bring its exhilarating adventure experience to more customers with its ambition to double in size over the next three years.

Zip World, which was founded five years ago, has grown rapidly and today welcomes more than 400,000 adventure seekers to its sites each year. It now generates revenues of more than £14m.

A 2018 study by North Wales Tourism calculated that Zip World had directly contributed £251million to the local economy over the last five years.

LDC is backing Zip World’s ambitious management team, led by co-founder, Sean Taylor, and Managing Director David Stacey. Sean, an award-winning entrepreneur, has driven the strategy and growth of the business and David brings more than 23 years’ experience of running multi-site leisure businesses and was UK Operations Director at Virgin Active, before he joined Zip World in 2016.

The transaction was led by Head of LDC in Cardiff, Dewi Hughes, with strong support from Alistair Pendleton, Simon Hemley and James Garland. Dewi and Alistair will both join the board as Non-Executive Directors.

Sean Taylor, director and co-founder of Zip World, said:

“Having built an exciting brand in the adventure tourism sector, we are focused on scaling up and will be looking to acquire additional sites as part of our ongoing expansion strategy.

“We are incredibly confident in the future of the adventure tourism industry and have ambitions to deliver Zip World’s iconic experiences to more customers and create more unique new attractions. LDC shares our enthusiasm and vision and we now have the additional capital and expertise needed to fire up our growth plans in Wales and beyond.”

Dewi Hughes, Investment Director and Head of LDC in Cardiff, said:

“We have had a longstanding relationship with Sean and Zip World team, and we’ve seen the business grow to become one of Wales’ biggest and most loved leisure brands over the last few years.

“Zip World is exactly the type of business we look to support. It’s a proven model being driven by a strong management team with a clear ambition for the future. We’re looking forward to getting off to a flying start.”

LDC was advised by Geldards and EY (tax), with Pragma, Ellis Whittam, FB Systems, Prelude, 3Sixty and JLT providing specialist due diligence support.

Zip World was advised by Stephen Hughes (corporate finance), Blake Morgan, FRP Advisory, PwC and Lanyon Bowdler.

HSBC UK Bank plc and their North West Corporate Banking Team was advised by Addleshaw Goddard and the exiting shareholders advised by Thrings.