Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Yesterday, I was copied in on an email sent to the South Wales Chamber of Commerce by the managing director of Holbrook Timber Framing, based in Bridgend.

He has given me permission to reproduce the email on this blog which comments on my article from Saturday's Western Mail regarding the Economic Renewal Programme (ERP):

"I have read with interest the observations by Dylan Jones-Evans on the ERP announced by WAG recently. We are one of the relatively new start up businesses that have featured in the Fast Growth 50 on three occasions since our start up in 2003. We will turnover approx £4.7million in 2010 and we employ 48 people directly and at any one time we engage the services of 15 subcontractors.

"We operate in the manufacturing and construction industries. We have survived the last few years but it has obviously been a struggle.

"Dylan is spot on with his observations in the switch of 50% of the SIF to repayable loans, the support of a limited amount of sectors and the development of a high performance broadband network.  There seemed little consultation and this support strategy is poorly thought out. We have been fortunate to have AIG and RSA support in the past six years but we have delivered in job creation and proved ourselves to be an entrepreneurial indigenous company. Our type of company seems to be overlooked in the details of the latest ERP.

"I can only sum it up by saying if we were setting up today, recession aside, we would in no way have been able to have developed our business and create the level of employment we have under the proposed support strategy.

"I wonder how many more companies that would say the same?? I would forecast there would be many!!

"This is not a policy for high growth SME’s and twenty companies like us create 1000 jobs."

Holbrook is exactly the type of business we should be supporting in Wales - a local family business that is investing in developing its workforce and growing its market.

It isn't a high technology firm based in one WAG's six 'sexy' sectors but one that has done remarkably well despite the sectors in which it plies its trade being hit hard by the recession.

As some may have noticed during the last couple of weeks, there has been a concerted campaign to try and push the line that businesses in Wales are supportive of the ERP.

However, the simple fact of the matter seems to be that many owner-managers are simply not aware of what has been going on and, when they find out, they are surprised at the implications not only for their business, but for the Welsh economy as a whole.

Increasingly, they are becoming aware that WAG has simply abandoned them for a strategy that has little to do with the needs of indigenous Welsh businesses but is, instead, reflecting  a civil service view of the Welsh economy that has little to with reality.

In fact, I am beginning to wonder if the Minister actually knows what he has actually signed up to - it is hardly the type of policy supporting small local businesses that Plaid  Cymru has advocated in the past.

Perhaps the Minister isn't the only one who has been 'sold a pup' by the civil service in Wales.

I have spoken to owners of businesses during the last two weeks that are increasingly worried that the organisations that purport to represent them - the CBI, IOD, FSB and Chambers - have agreed to go along with the recommendations  without consulting their members have actually been consulted on the outcomes for their business.

Hopefully, one or more of these bodies will discuss the reality of what this plan will do for the Welsh economy and the vast majority of Welsh business.

If they do, then the quiet acquiescence we have seen over the last few weeks may well be replaced by a far stronger opinion from the wealth creators of this nation.