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Foundational economy funding boost for Mid and South West Wales

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PROJECTS to increase the number of local food businesses supplying the public sector and set up an apprenticeship scheme in the construction industry are among eight schemes to win Welsh Government funding from the new Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters made the announcement during a visit to University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in Carmarthen today (Thursday, November 7).

They were met by catering staff who are part of a scheme being run by the Carmarthenshire Public Service Board, which is being awarded £100,000 to improve the procurement of local food from the area.

It is one of 52 experimental initiatives across Wales to receive a share of the £4.5m Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. The project will provide business opportunities for locally or regionally-based companies and bring environmental benefits by lowering food miles and associated carbon costs.

The foundational economy approach is being adopted by cities and regions across the world, but Wales is the first country in the world to embrace it on a national scale. It is made up of the everyday goods and services we all need and use with estimates suggesting it accounts for four out of every 10 jobs and £1 in every three we spend.

The Economy Challenge Fund aims to support a series of experimental projects which will enable the Welsh Government, with support from partners, to test how the foundational economy can best be supported.

Eight schemes in Mid and South West Wales will share almost £650,000 from the fund.

Speaking about the food procurement scheme in Carmarthenshire, Barry Liles, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Skills & Lifelong Learning), University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Chair of Carmarthenshire Public Services Board (PSB) said: “As a PSB we are really pleased to have been successful in our bid to the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.

“Public sector procurement is an area that we as partners recognise as having scope to have a greater impact on local economic wealth and development and this something we will test and develop in our project. We will focus on public sector food procurement but we firmly believe that if we can develop a multi-agency progressive procurement methodology as part of this project, there would be scope to introduce this in other areas of procurement.

“Carmarthenshire has a rich history of food production and supply and as well as the economic benefits of enhancing the local supply chain we will also be looking at the potential health benefits for the pupils, students and staff that consume the food we procure, by promoting good food for all.

“We look forward to working with our PSB members and partners in the commercial sector to consider and develop opportunities for moving this much talked about agenda forward, learning from the other successful projects as we go.”

Another project to be awarded funding is being led by Cyfle Building Skills Ltd. It will receive £86,500 to work with construction employers and provide opportunities for apprentices to receive valuable work experience placements throughout the industry.

Anthony Rees, regional manager of Cyfle Building Skills, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding, which will be of huge benefit to our young learners.

“We see this project as providing the crucial, first stepping stone for them into the world of work and the construction industry specifically. It will both develop their skills and employment prospects, and provide a boost to the industry at the same time.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I’ve been delighted to visit University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s campus in Carmarthen to hear more about this innovative project which really puts a sense of community at its heart.

“Looking at ways of ensuring local food is used and enjoyed in the area where it’s produced will be a boost for businesses and ensure it doesn’t need to travel far which supports efforts to improve our environment.

“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is all about making a real difference to people throughout Wales. It aims to drive prosperity across the nation and reach out to communities.

“As a government, we are committed to supporting all parts of Wales and help safeguard and create jobs and build the economic growth that we all want to see.”

Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said: “Supporting the Foundational Economy is a key priority for the Welsh Government. This is a vitally important part of the economy which makes a big difference to the livelihoods of many people as well as our cities, towns and villages.

“The standard of applications throughout Wales has been so high that we have been able to treble the amount available from the fund to £4.5m, supporting 52 projects.

“It’s been great to join the First Minister in Carmarthen to learn more about what it potentially a very exciting project and one which will change the way food is procured locally for the benefit of area’s communities.

“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is a clear demonstration of our commitment to supporting people in all parts of Wales today, tomorrow and into the future.”

More information on the successful projects can be found on the Business Wales website: https://businesswales.gov.wales/foundational-economy

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Business Wales delivers vital support

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MORE than 20,000 jobs have been created since April 2015 by enterprises that have received support from the Welsh Government’s flagship Business Wales service, Economy Minister Ken Skates has revealed.

Business Wales makes it easier for Welsh micro-businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as aspiring entrepreneurs of all ages to access the information, advice and support they require to start and grow their businesses.

In addition to helping Welsh enterprises create more than 20,000 new jobs since April 2015, the service has handled over 60,000 enquiries and advised over 30,000 individual entrepreneurs and firms across Wales. It has also helped Welsh entrepreneurs create more than 4,000 new businesses across Wales with an impressive four year survival rate of over 80 per cent.

The Welsh Government continues to proactively support entrepreneurs at each stage of the business lifecycle from raising awareness of entrepreneurship with more than 200,000 primary school pupils right across Wales through to idea generation, start-up and on to sustainable growth.
In November, the Economy Minister announced proposals to build on Business Wales’ success to ensure its high quality is maintained and developed so even more firms and entrepreneurs can benefit from the service.

This includes how the service can prepare businesses for what the economy will look like after Brexit.

Business Wales also has an increasingly important role in supporting firms to rise to the challenges set out in the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan of preparing for digital developments, improving productivity, increasing the incidence of fair work, decarbonising and promoting inclusive growth.

Ken Skates said: “As we enter the New Year, it’s fabulous news and a great achievement that our flagship Business Wales service has supported the creation of more than 20,000 jobs since April 2015.

“That’s 20,000 people given an opportunity to work, earn a wage, make a living and help drive a productive Welsh economy. I am delighted we, as a Welsh Government, have played our part in helping Welsh entrepreneurs and SMEs to make that happen.

“Although 92 per cent of Business Wales customers say they would recommend the service to a friend, we’re certainly not resting on our laurels and I’m already looking at ways Business Wales can directly support more firms and entrepreneurs over the coming years.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Welsh economy and vital to our economic outlook and the way communities throughout Wales operate from day-to-day.

“We will continue to support our SMEs and be on hand to provide the high-quality information, advice and guidance they need to thrive.”

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Business-savvy students from Carmarthenshire claim second prize at entrepreneurial competition with planet saving idea

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Two teams of entrepreneurial school pupils from across Carmarthenshire have been named runners up in the ‘Young Business Dragons’ national competition for their creative solution to tackling the climate change crisis.

Students from Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen and St. John Lloyd School in Llanelli were named runners up at the Young Business Dragons competition out of over 4,500 year 9 pupils from schools across south west Wales who all took part in the three competition rounds.

The annual Young Business Dragons competition, which is organised by Young Dragons and this year was sponsored by Welsh Government, University of South Wales Trinity St David’s and Swansea Bay Business Club, gives year 9 students the opportunity to think creatively and put a business idea into practice.

With this year’s theme being ‘Save the Planet’, each team was challenged with the idea of coming up with a business plan for a product or service that could have a positive effect on the environment while also being a profitable business idea.

Held at Swansea’s Village Hotel, Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen came up with the idea of a device that can be fitted onto exhaust pipes to reduce carbon emissions.

St. John Lloyd School in Llanelli pitched to the judges an innovative irrigation system to capture and reuse rainwater in food production.

Picking up the top prize, Ysgol Bae Baglan from Port Talbot won the judges over with their business idea ‘Ecotel’, an app that enables hotel guests to monitor their carbon footprint during their stay and receive reward points for minimising their energy usage which they can redeem against hotel services.

Sue Poole, Co-Director of Young Dragons said “Each year we continue to be amazed by the creativity and initiative of the young people who take part in Young Business Dragons. This year, the schools came up with some really innovative solutions to address global challenges, many utilising technology to exploit potential green business opportunities. They learn so much from the competition and develop the valuable skills that employers will be looking for such as team working and problem solving. It’s a privilege to help nurture this young entrepreneurial talent.”

To help the students develop their entrepreneurial mind-set, each team was assigned a mentor, these are made up of local business owners, passionate educationalists and Role Models from Welsh Government’s youth entrepreneurship service, Big Ideas Wales. Role Models are entrepreneurs and business owners, some of whom have received support from Big Ideas Wales in setting up their own enterprise, and provided students with advice in financial planning, marketing and business development.

Kathryn David, Co-Director, Young Dragons said: “Young Business Dragons helps find tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and promotes the pool of talent that exists across Wales. The schools in this year’s final have shown real entrepreneurial flair to tackle an existing problem that we’re all facing today. That made it difficult for the judges to pick the overall winners from some excellent ideas, but left us feeling extremely excited about the promising future business talent in Wales.”

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Carmarthenshire jeweller is seventeenth day of NatWest social media advent calendar

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A CARMARTHENSHIRE jewellery business is behind the seventeenth day of a Twitter advent calendar celebrating Britain’s independent high street retailers in the run-up to Christmas.

The social media countdown has been launched by NatWest as part of its support for Visa’s #WhereYouShopMatters campaign, which aims to encourage more shoppers to visit their local high street and shop locally this Christmas.

From gift shops to bakeries, the calendar will profile a different local retailer from across England and Wales each day.

Tuesday’s (Dec 17) festive treat is Mari Thomas Jewellery on Rhosmaen Street in Llandeilo.

Mari is a contemporary designer jeweller and goldsmith who established her first workshop in 1998. During her career she has won numerous design awards including the Gold Medal for Craft and Design at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and is listed in the prestigious who’s who directory of leading jewellery designers at the Goldsmiths Company London.

She opened the doors of her gallery and workshop in Llandeilo in 2012 and it is one of the many independent high street retailers that the campaign hopes to help.

Mari said: “The high street is absolutely essential for UK business. Its more than just a row of shops, it’s the place to find individual and interesting goods and products. It’s the heart of the community, somewhere to socialise, an outlet for supporting local talent, manufacturers and suppliers. It supports and grows the local economy, provides jobs and shopping locally reduced the carbon footprint which is good for the environment.”

The business has been supported by Paul Dunne, one of NatWest’s Business Banking Relationship Managers for Mid and West Wales.

He said: “The advent calendar is about celebrating the amazing work of independent retailers like Mari who make our high streets what they are. They work tirelessly throughout the year and bring so much creativity and diversity to our local towns and cities. That is why we’re really proud to support these businesses and just as importantly, the people behind them.”

Research commissioned by Visa found that seven out of ten consumers (73%) say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with two fifths (42%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason why.

You can follow the NatWest advent calendar at @NatWestBusiness.

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