The new Development Bank of Wales could lead to a “renaissance” of Wrexham’s business fortunes, a Welsh Government chief has said.
Welsh Government economy secretary, Ken Skates AM, hailed today’s official launch of the Development Bank of Wales, which will have its headquarters in Wrexham.
Mr Skates said the bank, which will replace Finance Wales, had the potential to increase availability of financial resources for growing businesses in Wales to £1 billion over the next five years, creating or sustaining 5,550 per year by 2021.
When asked about concerns regarding trade in the county borough, including over empty retail outlets in the town centre, Mr Skates said the bank could potentially lead to a “renaissance of Wrexham”.
Mr Skates, who is also Clwyd South AM, said: “I think something’s happening at the moment in Wrexham, something quite special, through a concerted effort by Welsh Government to support growing businesses.
“We’re seeing the likes of Chetwood Financial, Moneypenny, the Business Wales Incubator which is going to open soon – creating more than 200 jobs and 100 new businesses.
“I think we’re seeing something of a renaissance in Wrexham, but the Development Bank will play a critical role in making sure that it is sustained well into the future.”
He said the growing financial and professional services sector made Wrexham a “very attractive and appropriate area” for the bank’s headquarters.
“But in addition Wrexham sits strategically on the very edge of an even bigger financial and professional services cluster,” he added.
“We know on Chester Business Park there is a huge degree of activity in this area, and also in Greater Manchester so Wrexham, by having the headquarters of the Development Bank of Wales, I think can punch well above its weight in the years to come.”
It launches with the
£100 million Wales Flexible Investment Fund, more micro-finance available and extended lending terms.
In total, the Development Bank of Wales has about £440m available to invest in Welsh business.
Negotiations regarding the location of the headquarters are ongoing.
The Wales Flexible Investment Fund will invest more and over longer periods than existing funds, offering up to £5m in a single round and repayment terms of up to 10 years.
A spokesman added that through the Development Bank, the Welsh Government is also trebling the amount of micro finance available from £6m to more than £18m, with further funds also being developed.
Speaking at Homestead Nursery in Gresford – which received a Wales Business Fund loan earlier this year to support new owners Kim Jones and Rachel Lloyd’s plans for the facility – Mr Skates said about 50 staff would be based in Wrexham, which he added was a “significant proportion” of the overall number of workers.
“I think it’s going to be important as well to attract the best and the brightest from across Wales to the Wrexham headquarters,” he said.
“That’s going to be done over the course of the coming months and interviews are already being held.
“I’m confident that we have people in North Wales who can rise to the challenge, who can meet the demands of the business community, but I’m also confident we have people elsewhere in Wales who can do just that.
“From North Wales, you’ll appreciate that there are often accusations that too much focus is given to South Wales.
“I think it’s important we share opportunities to create wealth evenly and fairly across Wales by having the headquarters in North Wales, but also a pan-Wales location strategy, we’ll be able to do precisely what I set out in my vision for the development Bank of Wales, which is to become a bank for all businesses across all communities.”
Mr Skates said the bank was drawing up a location strategy to ensure there is “very close alignment” between Business Wales, with the potential for shared resources and locations.
He added: “But I also think it's important that the HQ, which is going to be in Wrexham, is well-resourced, well-staffed, with the chief executive and board members regularly here with a significant number of experts that are able to support and offer finances to businesses within this region.”
Giles Thorley, chief executive of the Development Bank of Wales said: “99 per cent of all businesses across Wales are micro to medium size.
“They account for 60 per cent of all private sector employment. As businesses face the uncertainty of Brexit, the need to provide stability and stimulate growth is more immediate than ever.
“For Welsh businesses the changes mean that there is more finance available to support them no matter what their stage of business. Micro, small and medium businesses are vital to the Welsh economy and we are proud to have worked with so many ambitious and dedicated entrepreneurs.
“The message to Welsh businesses is simple: get in touch. We’re here to help your business succeed.”
Offering loans and equity investments which can be paid back over periods of up to ten years, the bank will offer a wide range of investment, from £1,000 up to £5 million.
A Welsh Government spokesman said the bank has more than 40 executives across Wales, and that businesses would be matched with a “dedicated, local representative”.
Businesses can find out if they are eligible online at www.developmentbank.wales.