There is a breath of fresh air for business in Wales. Some 12,000 companies were created in what was the UK’s fastest-growing economy in 2016. Others are relocating, attracted by access to devolved decision-makers, skilled local labour and lower operating costs — grade A office rental costs less than 50 per cent of the average London rates with 30 per cent lower salary costs.
All these advantages are explored in this four-page special, an overview of why Wales is a fabulous place to do business. All told, there are more than 253,000 enterprises employing 1.1 million people in the country, including thriving firms Sony, General Electric and Toyota.
European aircraft maker Airbus manufactures the wings for all its commercial aircraft and employs 6,000 people in Broughton, North Wales. Steve Thomas, the company’s government affairs executive for the UK, says: “Wales is a great place to do business.
“The devolved government is approachable and supportive — we have access to ministers and they invest in training our workforce. Without the support of the Welsh Government, our ability to grow our business would falter. We are the envy of our European competitors.”
We also report how the workforce in Wales, which has a population of just over three million, punches above its weight: productivity in the manufacturing and advanced materials sector — a cherished asset — is higher than the UK average.
Companies enjoy access to well-trained workers too, many of whom graduate from the country’s eight universities such as Cardiff, which is ranked among the top 35 in Britain.
Andy Mielczarek, CEO of challenger bank Chetwood Financial, says: “Our relationship with local education providers is brilliant. We’ve run internship programmes with Cardiff University and plan to run more. I’ve been surprised by how proactive and pro-business people have been.”
Chetwood last year opened its first office in Wrexham, North Wales, where it employs 33 staff. The start-up was backed by £750,000 in finance from the Welsh Government. The nation attracted 85 inward investment projects overall in 2016/17, creating 2,500 jobs.
Mielczarek says: “Wales beats London as a business proposition — the cost of offices, housing and salaries is lower. But it’s also accessible — Chester is 20 minutes away by car.”
Work-life balance is another advantage. “I’m a keen mountain-biker and climber, and you can’t beat North Wales for that,” he adds. Wales is not merely a feasible option for ambitious, expanding firms, but is a place where they can thrive.
How the Welsh Government is driving up wealth and wellbeing
The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, explains how the country is devoted to economic development
As the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport in Wales, you will not be surprised to hear me describing it as an innovative, outward-facing, forward-looking country and a first class location in which to invest, work and live. But you needn’t just take my word for it.
High-profile companies such as Aston Martin, TVR, IQE, Chetwood Financial and CAF have all recently committed to basing significant parts of their operations in Wales. And many have been clear that our competitive business environment and supportive approach has been a deciding factor in their decision to locate or expand in Wales.
As a Government, we have undertaken a huge amount of work to strengthen the foundations of our economy. We now have more people in work than ever before, a record number of active businesses, and very healthy rates of new business births, exports and foreign direct investment.
But this is no time to stand still. We live in an age of unprecedented change and of huge opportunity, and we must capitalise on that. In December I was proud to publish our new Economic Action Plan, which sets out a clear, whole government approach to building stronger foundations for our economy, supercharging the industries of the future and empowering Wales’ regions.
It includes a commitment to develop a new and dynamic relationship between Government and business based on public investment with a social purpose. In practice that means the Welsh Government supporting businesses that commit to growth, fair work, and promoting health and skills in the workplace. It also means challenging businesses to prepare for key developments like automation, decarbonisation and the opportunities presented by leaving the European Union.
The plan aims to drive up not only wealth but also wellbeing. I hope it will inspire businesses and people outside of the country to find out more about what Wales has to offer.
To find out more about moving your business to Wales, visit Trade and Invest website
*All content was commissioned and approved by Trade and Invest Wales