Lightning fast fibre-optic connectivity with Gigabolt has now landed at Beacon Business Park in Stafford, making it the first full-fibre business park to offer the next generation of broadband technology in Staffordshire.

Beacon Business Park has always embraced technology at the forefront of its vision to provide diverse and innovative manufacturing and working spaces for business in the area.

In this latest stage of development, the park created a set of 16 new office suites in a range of sizes, most of which have already been let. Recognising that the current internet speeds in the area were unimpressive, they teamed up with Internet Central to offer the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) fibre in conjunction with the government’s gigabit voucher scheme.

Scott James, Enterprise Solutions Manager at Internet Central, commended the owners of the business park, ISE Estates Ltd, on their forward planning to meet the needs of local business:

‘ISE are bringing this park into the future to enable faster growth, valuing the internet as a vital asset to the success of every business.’

Businesses on the park will be able to enjoy full end-to-end fibre connectivity, providing the stable higher-speed internet needed to support cloud-based applications, along with next generation’s telephony, ultra HD video and conferencing facilities.

Gigabolt promises an average speed of 900Mb/s compare to the UK average of 48Mb/s (Ofcom data May 2018). This completely new infrastructure is perfect for use with the latest generation of WiFi with an IC core network uptime of 99.997% in the last five years.

For more information about commercial property in Staffordshire, contact ISE Estates on 01785 256098 or email info@espleys.co.uk.

A Staffordshire contract cleaning company is moving into new markets following a £50,000 cash injection from Michelin Development.

Cheadle-based Moorland Contract Cleaning is using the funding to launch a new division, providing janitorial supplies that feature greener formulations and sustainable packaging. Over the next three years, the business is forecasting turnover to double and more than 10 full time positions to be created as a result of the expansion.

Founded by Tim and Suzanne Davy in 2012, Moorland Contract Cleaning operates in the commercial, retail, leisure, industrial and educational sectors across the Midlands and Yorkshire. The company applied to Michelin Development to support its ambitious plans after largely self-financing the business over the years.

Michelin Development offers subsidised, unsecured loans of up to £50,000, for projects with the potential to create quality, sustainable jobs.

Suzanne Davy said: “We are very passionate about high quality standards of cleaning and providing a service that is second to none and our business has gone from strength-to-strength based on these values. The move into janitorial supplies feels like a natural progression for us. By expanding our supplier base, we can introduce greener; environmental practices into our own cleaning contracts and expand our market by offering a much wider ranges of cleaning materials, equipment, washroom products and cleaning machines through a fully managed service.

“The support from Michelin Development has been invaluable for us to take the next step. It is helping us to manage the projected growth of the cleaning business overall, coupled with the diversification into janitorial supplies, and has given us the confidence to move forward.  It is a great service for ambitious businesses looking to scale up.”

Mike Cole, head of Michelin Development, is keen to hear from other North Staffordshire businesses looking to achieve the next stage of growth. Mr Cole said: “Moorland Contract Cleaning is a great example of a business looking to expand, create new jobs and support the local economy as a whole. Our message to other small businesses with the same mindset is that we are here to help. We have the funds in place, but we need to receive applications to deliver this support and investment in our community. The companies we can help know their markets and figures and they just need a little extra support to move along on their growth journey. That is where we can step in to help.”

To find out more visit www.michelindevelopment.co.uk

Brexit update

This Friday 31st January at 23:00hrs the UK marks its official departure from the European Union thus fulfilling the wishes of many people in our area. However, the coming year is likely to be very challenging for many businesses as all eyes will be focussed on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU which is sure to have many twists and turns during negotiations.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “In our business communities, this historic moment will bring a mixture of regret for some and celebration for others – but this is just the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

“Decisions made during the next phase of negotiations will influence the business environment for decades to come. Businesses are likely to face significant changes in the way they trade, both in Europe and across the world. The government must clearly communicate what those changes will be – and provide timely guidance and support to help firms adapt and make the most of new opportunities as Britain sets its own trading polices”.

The UK will enter an 11 month ‘business-as-usual’ transition period. All parties are keen to ensure that a comprehensive FTA is successfully negotiated but If these talks fail to produce an agreement then a theoretical ‘no-deal’ Brexit is still possible in December 2020. Time spent thinking through the changes that Brexit may bring to your firm could yield real dividends in future. There are steps that businesses of all sizes can take now to start planning ahead. Click Here to see a new Post-Transition Brexit Checklist.

We are currently updating our very own Bresilience website to reflect the changes. Our International Trade Team is available to help support your business though these times of change and don’t forget that Chamber members automatically receive 50% off the cost of Export Documentation – that’s an average saving of over £1000 p.a.

Services for further education and skills in Stoke-on-Trent City Council are ‘improving’ says Ofsted, in a new report published recently.

All areas inspected were found to be either significantly improving or reasonably improving following a monitoring visit which took place earlier this month.

The new findings come following adult learning services being previously found to be ‘inadequate’ in July 2019. The monitoring visit was part of a standard Ofsted follow-up that looks to monitor how providers that are found to be inadequate are working to improve services.

The employment, learning and skills section which was inspected is part of learning services in the children and family services directorate. The service provides city-wide access to skills provision through adult and community learning programmes. Accredited adult learning programmes were the focus for this monitoring visit.

Areas considered during the monitoring visit were the progress:

  • council leaders had made in improving the quality of the adult learning provision through more effective oversight of the service
  • senior leaders and managers had made in using management information to improve the quality of adult learning programmes
  • tutors had made in identifying adult learners’ starting points accurately and using them effectively
  • tutors had made in ensuring that adult learners developed significant new knowledge, behaviour and skills

Cllr Janine Bridges, cabinet member for economy and education said: “Following the disappointing Ofsted inspection last July, we moved swiftly to put the necessary improvements in place. It is good to see that this hard work is being recognised and starting to pay off. Ofsted recognised that either significant or reasonable progress was being made in the areas that we need to address.

“A new governing body is in place, there is better management information to inform the council’s approach and managing attendance and quality of data are all improving. Ultimately and what’s most important is that we’re improving the service for the people in Stoke-on-Trent. We have recently been announced as the number one in the UK for jobs growth. There is a direct link between economic growth and skills and a real need to ensure that we attract difference sectors to work in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s extremely positive to see that we’re starting to get back on track with our adult learning.

“We’re only part way through our improvement journey but it’s good to see that the hard work is starting to make a difference. We’re continuing to meet with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to help make the necessary changes and this will continue until such time as all issues have been addressed.

“The links between education, skills and a successful economy are well known. We want all adults and children to be able to able to access the best learning in Stoke-on-Trent and this takes us one step further to achieving this.”

The news of the monitoring visit outcomes comes as Stoke-on-Trent City Council has committed to ensuring children are their number one priority, following an inadequate judgment from Ofsted in February 2019.

Since then a number of improvements have been put in place across the service. Sarah Parker is set to take up the role as the permanent director of children services from 3 February – Sarah was previously director for children’s services at Dorset Council. Two new permanent assistant director roles are also being recruited for.

Full feedback from the monitoring visit by Ofsted is available at: https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50143875.

 

Investment in state-of-the-art machinery and a clear business strategy has seen sales grow at Stoke-on-Trent-based Central Glass and Windows.

The Hanley-based company is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020 and goes into its second decade with confidence having made a significant investment in CNC fabrication machinery. This has resulted in new work across the UK.

Recent contracts have included the fabrication of aluminium windows and doors, with the installation into a number of car showrooms, schools and shops. Central Glass and Windows have also secured a further new market, fabricating Bi-folding doors for local builders, to be installed into new build homes.

The new fabrication machinery means that Central Glass and Windows have the capability to design and build aluminium frames to any specification with the Smart Aluminium Range.

Founded in 2010 by father and son David and Gareth Dunn and their two business partners Dean Simpson and Adrian Mellor, Central Glass bucked the trend to grow during the global recession and are now forecasting continued expansion as the company nears its 10th anniversary this year.

“Our team has grown by around a quarter, to 20, over the past three years and we’ve gained a significant new business advantage by starting to fabricate our own aluminium windows,” said Director Gareth Dunn.

“By fabricating aluminium frames ourselves, we are not reliant on suppliers and can complete commercial fit out jobs more efficiently. Now, the company is purchasing a CNC Machine, using computer aided design technology to once again improve our manufacturing processes.”

From premises at Broom Street, Hanley, Central Glass and Windows have a national outreach and work with large companies, such as fast food restaurant chains, schools and colleges, councils, architects and builders.

The company supplies and fits new windows throughout the UK and has a 24/7 call out service to replace broken windows within a 25-mile radius of Stoke-on-Trent.

The company also works on homes, supplying and fitting windows, doors and conservatories and offering a repair service.

“We have seven vehicles and they are out on contracts across the country, for example, we‘ve recently completed jobs in Yeovil and Anglesey,” said Gareth.

“My father has worked in the glazing industry for 46 years and I followed him into the trade. As we have been able to grow our workforce, I am now able to focus more of my time on business planning to ensure further future growth.

To find out more about Central Glass and Windows, please go online to http://www.centralgw.co.uk

In September 2018, the then new Klarius CEO Mark Brickhill established a Works Council, one of a number of initiatives to improve employee engagement and feedback within the company and externally with the local community. The Works Council members chose Dougie Mac (Douglas Macmillan Hospice) to be the Charity of the Year for 2019, and have again for 2020.

Community Champion Natalie Parry from the finance department at Klarius Cheadle HQ leads the effort and said: “I’m delighted that together we have managed to raise over £6,000 for Dougie Mac in our Community Programme’s first year. It’s a wonderful local charity which has supported many friends and relatives of staff members, as well as some who have retired.”  

John Bennett, from Manufacturing and who is Works Council Chair, added: “Dougie Mac is more than just a hospice. I’ve had mates benefit directly from it, providing them with continuous support and care when they’ve needed it most. Dougie Mac improves the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses providing physical, emotional, spiritual and social support for both them and their families.”

Mark Brickhill said: “I’m very proud of Team Klarius and we aim to do even more in 2020 to support the outstanding work of the exceptional team at Dougie Mac who do so much for our local community.”

Lauren Beresford from Dougie Mac accepted the cheque presented by Natalie on behalf of Team Klarius, thanking them and saying: “It is so very important that local businesses and their employees get involved and help fund our work. We support around 3,500 people and their families in North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent each year costing over £12 million. Our services rely on local fundraising, so a massive thank you to all the team at Klarius.”

Klarius Products Ltd is the largest manufacturer of aftermarket emissions equipment in the UK employing over 260 people at the Brookhouses Industrial Estate in Cheadle, Staffordshire.

Karen Coleman, Employment Law specialist, Excello Law, examines the proposed introduction of Jack’s Law.

Parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child will be entitled to 2 weeks’ statutory leave under new rules to be known as Jack’s Law.

The legislation will see those who suffer the loss of a child receive paid time off for bereavement – something that is not currently an automatic right.

Of course, most employers will want to be as sympathetic as possible to their staff in such tragic circumstances and will already be doing all they can to support parents who lose a child.

However, nothing has previously been laid down in Employment Law and the new laws are a welcome clarification for both parents and their employers.

Jack’s Law is named in memory of Jack Herd, whose mother, Lucy, has been campaigning for a reformation of bereavement laws ever since her son drowned aged 23 months, in 2010. Lucy Herd started campaigning for change after discovering that there was a lack of consistency in how compassionate leave was considered.

Until now, the official position, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), was that anyone classed as an employee has the right to time off for a ‘dependant,’ and that “this time off is for dealing with unexpected issues and emergencies involving the dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral.”

This could be problematic as it doesn’t give a guideline on time allowed, only saying it should be ‘reasonable’ and there’s no stipulation that the leave should be paid leave.

ACAS states that many employers do choose to offer pay when someone’s been bereaved, but the amount they offer is up to them.

Parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will now be able to take bereavement leave as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each across the first year after the death, under the new law.

What does the new law mean?

Anyone who has been employed for at least 26 weeks will be entitled to a minimum payment of up to £148 a week during their bereavement leave. However, this depends on the level of their salary.

Jack’s Law is set to come into force in April 2020.

The Government has described Jack’s Law as “the most generous offer on parental bereavement pay and leave in the world.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “There can be few worse experiences in life than the loss of a child and I am proud that this government is delivering ‘Jack’s Law’, making us the first country in the world to do so. When it takes effect, Jack’s Law will be a fitting testament to the tireless efforts of Lucy Herd, alongside many charities, to give parents greater support.”

Around 7,500 child deaths, including around 3,000 stillbirths, occur in the UK every year. The government estimates that this new entitlement will help to support around 10,000 parents a year.

Jack’s Law will come into force on 6 April 2020, subject to Parliamentary approval of the legislation. This new law arrives ahead of the government’s new Employment Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech in December, which will introduce a raft of further measures to benefit workers and businesses including carer’s leave and neonatal pay.

For further information please contact Karen Coleman, telephone 07985 237002, email kcoleman@excellolaw.co.uk.

http://www.colemanhrlaw.co.uk.

Employment growth in Stoke-on-Trent has been named as the fastest in the UK, with 8,000 jobs created in the past five years.

The latest UK Powerhouse figures put the city above major metropolitan areas including London, Manchester and Birmingham. In a report by leading law firm Irwin Mitchell, jobs growth in Stoke-on-Trent even tops their previous predictions – last May their research projected growth for the final quarter of 2020 as the fourth fastest in the UK. But the company now forecasts that for the end of 2020, employment levels will reach 122,000 and year-on-year growth will be 2.2 per cent. It means that jobs growth in Stoke-on-Trent is faster than in 46 other major cities, including all UK capital cities*.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “These figures show the tremendous confidence in our city; we’re the place to bring business and the place to do business. It shows our approach is working. Our Stronger Together vision for the city is built on a number of pillars including supporting our businesses to thrive by delivering investment in our towns and communities.

“Successes in Stoke-on-Trent include the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone, with more than 2,000 jobs created in the past four years and the growing Smithfield site in the city centre, which is delivering over 1,000 high value jobs. There are really exciting developments at Smithfield, with a soon to open Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, as well proposals for new multi-million pound developments. Major development sites include the 10-acre prime city centre East-West Precinct, and Swift House, a prime residential and leisure site next to Stoke-on-Trent Railway Station which attracts more than three million travellers a year. Fortior Homes, a council-owned development company, is also turning brownfield sites into high quality mixed tenure housing schemes, including the first city centre high-end private rented accommodation at Smithfield. This is alongside a growing private sector-led housing offer, which complements our own ambitious housing plans that have seen completion of more homes in the last year than the average London borough.”

The UK Powerhouse findings also rank Stoke-on-Trent as the 16th best performing city in the UK for gross value added – a measurement of the value of the goods and services produced in the city. The report also comes at a time when Stoke-on-Trent is in the top 10 cities for floor space rental growth in the country.

Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for education and economy, said: “Our plan is working, we are delivering for our communities and allowing our businesses to grow at pace. Land values are incredibly competitive which together with our ‘can-do’ attitude and excellent strategic location is a big attraction for businesses. The increase in values demonstrates the growing confidence in the city and our exciting emerging market.

“We provide a tailor-made service, through our Make It Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire team, creating the right environment for investment by helping businesses find locations, give advice on incentives and details about recruitment.

“We’re committed to working in partnership to ensure Stoke-on-Trent continues to be a great place to live, work and invest in.”

Councillor Brown added: “It’s a hugely exciting time for the city. There is one million square feet of employment space in the pipeline and substantial, increasing demand for both housing and employment land. We are unashamedly shouting about the great development opportunities in Stoke-on-Trent and continue to work hard to bring in investment and high quality jobs to support our city’s economy and help our communities to grow. It shows once again that Stoke-on-Trent is a city on the up.”

The Irwin Mitchell Powerhouse City Growth Checker report can be found here: https://irwinmitchell.turtl.co/story/uk-powerhouse-january-2020/page/8

*The report forecasts that employment growth for quarter four in 2020 in London will be 1.7%, in Edinburgh will be 1.4%, in Cardiff will be 1.3% and in Belfast will be -0.6%.

TMT First is hoping to double its revenue year-on-year in 2020, as the Staffordshire-based Samsung-accredited repair firm looks to target the SME sector.

Founder and managing director Adam Whitehouse points to “six-figure” investments in new marketing activities, machinery and technical staff, with the firm looking to add a minimum of 20 new staff over the course of the year.

Other additions to the business include an online portal that allows clients to track the progress of their devices in the repair cycle, which went live last week, and a new website expected to launch this week.

The firm was previously focused on device configuration and data wiping for vendors and retailers, but since it moved to a 40,000 square- foot warehouse in Newcastle-under- Lyme four years ago, it has shifted focus towards being an authorised repair partner for Samsung.

“We’re not using 50 per cent of the potential of the building at this moment in time, so we won’t have the distraction of having to move buildings as we go through this growth phase,” said Whitehouse.

Early last year, Whitehouse recruited former HMD, HTC and Samsung sales head Jon French as chairman to help him with the growth plans.

“Jon has a great contact list, and I’m already benefiting from his guidance and experience,” said Whitehouse. “It’s key that I work with someone with the industry knowledge and experience that Jon has.”

French said on the importance of repairs for businesses: “The backbone of this country is SMEs. By far the largest number of corporations and businesses are below 10 people today, and if you have one person out of the loop, that hurts a lot more than it does in a company of 10,000.

“This is such an open field, and there are so many customers that we talk to looking for alternatives to their current situation. Capex can easily be offset by the increase in business that we can achieve.”

TMT First has launched partnerships with local institutions including Keele University and Staffordshire University to source potential new staff, and is in the early stages of developing a “Samsung training academy” in the Midlands that will also help in this pursuit.

An award winning chocolatier, an award winning gin distiller and an award winning food marketer walk into a pub… Whilst it sounds like the start of a joke, it is in fact the start of Chocao.

Chocao, a cacao gin liqueur designed to be enjoyed neat as an after dinner drink, is the result of a creative collaboration between three independent Staffordshire businesses: Staffordshire Gin founders Jason Davies and Claire Gibbs, award winning chocolatier James Walter of Seed Chocolate, and food and drink marketing specialist Daren Bach from Provoke (the team behind Sauce Magazine).

The gin-based liqueur is infused with ultra-premium, single origin Peruvian cacao beans, which are more commonly used to make chocolate. The cacao beans are bought via direct trade from an agricultural collective in northern Peru. Every batch is directly traceable to the community where it was grown, thus ensuring there is no child slavery in the production process and the farmers receive a fair price. The drink is also suitable for vegans.

This Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire collective is aiming to shake up the bar and restaurant scene with the launch of their new gin liqueur. Many restaurants have stuck to the same list for years when it comes to after dinner drinks, with brandy, cream-based liqueurs and liqueur coffees being the most familiar.

Chocao is aiming to give diners another option that will satisfy chocolate-lovers as well as those who would normally go for cognac or whisky. It’s the perfect drink for sipping on the sofa at the end of the night or sitting in front of an open fire.

To celebrate the launch, there will be tasting events this February at Ten Green Bottles in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stone. Ticket holders will have the chance to sample the drink alongside some of its raw ingredients, and there will be specially crafted cocktails on offer from Ten Green Bottles’ in-house mixologist.

The team behind Chocao are now looking for likeminded bars and restaurants across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Birmingham and Manchester who would like to stock Chocao. Customers who have enjoyed the drink in one of these venues will soon be able to purchase a bottle online.

Jason and Claire distil each batch of cacao gin at Staffordshire Gin HQ in Silverdale. Their popular Black Violet gin recently won bronze at the World Gin Awards.

The cacao beans are sourced and prepared by James Walter of Seed Chocolate, who has received recognition for his bean-to-bar chocolate from The Academy of Chocolate, The International Chocolate Awards and The Guild of Fine Foods’ Great Taste Awards.

Daren Bach, a food and drink marketing specialist and founder of Provoke Marketing & Design in Stone, is responsible for the branding, packaging and website design as well as marketing activity for Chocao.

For interviews and press enquiries, please contact team@weprovoke.co.uk

For trade enquiries, please contact daren@chocao.co.uk