Businesses from across Neath Port Talbot came together today to talk about their business growth ambitions and their requirements for property and facilities to expand into. The Neath Port Talbot Innovation Exchange is a new business forum co-hosted by 4theRegion and Neath Port Talbot Council, which provides an opportunity for local firms to share updates, challenges and opportunities, as well as hearing from speakers on a range of topics. In today’s roundtable on Property and Business Growth, Alison Orrells from Safety Letterbox Company, which employs more than 60 local people, said her business will be seeking to double its turnover in the next two years, and is absolutely committed to its local community and roots in Neath. But challenges in finding the right premises over the years have led to the business now being spread out over four different facilities across the county – with the marketing and sales function having recently relocated to the new high quality office building developed by the local authority, on the Metalbox site.
Conversely, Glamorgan Engineering is in the enviable position of having their own site and more space than they need, whilst AV Coatings in Cwmgors is seeking to develop additional floorplace over the next year, and is interested to hear from other local businesses who might want to move in with them. Rob Good from the Development Bank of Wales outlined some of the ways in which the public bank can assist, especially in relation to gap funding for developers – but Adil Pirmohamed from the Economic Development team in Neath Port Talbot Council expressed the view that there isn’t enough support for local businesses to develop property for themselves, with support instead focussed on speculative developers – who may or may not bring long term economic benefits into the region, and who often end up charging higher rents that price out smaller local firms.
Looking ahead at upcoming investments in property and infrastructure by the public and private sectors, Adil said there is a huge demand from growing businesses for more industrial space in the county, and asked the Welsh Government to look seriously at how this demand could be addressed. One thing everyone agrees on: Neath Port Talbot is an excellent location in which to run an engineering, manufacturing, R&D or technology business, thanks to connections with academia, proactive support from the Council, and co-location with many complementary businesses – as well as great transport links by rail and road – but demand for space outstrips supply, and this is a challenge that will potentially inhibit the growth of businesses if steps are not taken to support local companies with their urgent requirements for space.