Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Today, the 14th annual list of the fastest growing firms in Wales is launched.

At a time when the Welsh economy badly needs a boost, the firms featured in this year’s Fast Growth 50 supplement demonstrate, yet again, the entrepreneurial and innovative potential that exists within our business community.

And despite trading within an economy that has been struggling to grow since the recession, this year’s list shows a record increase in turnover, demonstrating that even within difficult economic times, Welsh business can be competitive in an increasingly turbulent global environment.

Thanks to their wealth and employment creating potential, such high impact firms are now becoming the focus of policymakers around the World. And whilst entrepreneurship remains a key goal for developing local economies, there is an appreciation that as many firms will never grow beyond providing a local service and therefore there needs to be an increasing focus on those businesses that have the potential to grow further and create jobs.

National and regional governments around the World are now realising that focusing on high growth businesses, or so-called ‘gazelles’, can give them more “bang for their bucks” in ensuring that public sector business support is targeted towards those that can create jobs in the economy.

In fact, we can see that the impact of a small group of high growth firms can be tremendous within a small economy such as Wales. Since 1999, 440 firms have appeared on the fourteen lists published in the Western Mail. These have created over 22,000 jobs and generate over £12 billion of additional turnover annually into the Welsh economy, much of which is spent on local goods and services.

The 2012 Fast Growth 50 list is the most successful to date, generating a turnover of over £3billion and creating over 3000 jobs.

This is, in part, due to one of Wales’ most successful businesses, Admiral Group PLC, which appears on the list for the second year in succession, doubling its turnover between 2009 and 2011. In fact, larger firms with a turnover of greater than £20 million make up 20 per cent of this year’s list, demonstrating that growth is not only limited to smaller businesses.

Yet, even if Admiral is excluded, the performance of the other forty-nine is an incredible achievement, generating over £815 million in sales in 2011 at an average growth rate of 86%, and generating an additional £377 million for the economy during the period 2009-2011. These firms also created approximately 2000 jobs,  far higher than the number generated by inward investment into Wales during the same period

In terms of location, Cardiff remains the main centre for fast growth firms, with thirteen businesses being based in the capital city, the same as 2011. Other urban centres are also magnets for growing firms including Bridgend (six firms), Swansea (five firms), Newport (four firms) and Wrexham (three firms). The other stand-out town in Wales is the area around Welshpool in Powys, which has three significant manufacturing firms that are showing considerable growth.

This year, North Wales has only six companies, although their collective growth is considerably higher than the Welsh average. Two  counties - Anglesey, Conwy - have no fast growth businesses within their boundaries for the fourth year in a row. They are joined as Fast Growth 50 free zones in 2012 by Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Denbighshire, and Merthyr Tydfil.

As in 2011, the average age of the growth company in Wales is twelve years old, suggesting yet again that it takes time for such businesses to establish themselves in their marketplaces. The oldest business this year is Wynnstay PLC, which was established in 1918, whilst there are thirteen fast growth start-ups (five years old or less).

There are twenty seven businesses that appear for the first time on the Fast Growth 50 list whilst four companies – Kids@Play, Professional Driver Services, Smart Solutions and Trojan Electronics - return for a third time in succession. In fact, this is the second time that Trojan has made it a “hat trick”, having appeared ion the fast growth 50 lists in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Two businesses have demonstrated four years of continuous growth, both of which made their debuts on the list in 2009. Machynlleth based Dulas had a turnover of £21.5 million in 2011, whilst Biotec Services International has grown to sales of £9.2 million over the same period.

Finally, congratulations to Glyndwr Innovations for becoming the fastest growing firm in wales in 2012.

Universities are often criticised for not engaging properly with business so the success of this university company from Wrexham is great news for the Welsh economy.

One can only hope that their success will spur on other higher education institutions to follow in their footsteps over the next few years.