“Social businesses a catalyst for local economic growth and community regeneration”, new report finds

Creating quality employment, attracting private sector investment, delivering vital local services and encouraging community cohesion, are just a few of the substantial benefits social businesses bring to Wales’ most socially deprived areas, a new report has evidenced.

27 Oct, 17

Research published earlier this year* estimates that the social business sector is worth £2.37 billion to the Welsh economy, supports approximately 40,800 jobs, and offers opportunities to volunteer to approximately 48,000 – 58,000 people.

‘Local, fairer, stronger: social businesses creating growth in Wales’, commissioned and published by Social Business Wales, investigates the potential that social businesses* have to create jobs and tackle poverty in difficult economic conditions, particularly in rural, post-industrial, inner city and coastal communities

The report provides detailed insights into eight Welsh social businesses that have stimulated economic growth within their region: Antur Nantlle Cyf (Caernarfon); Antur Stiniog (Blaenau Ffestiniog); Bay Leisure Ltd (Swansea); Crossroads Sir Gar (Llanelli); Fern Partnership (Maerdy); P.M.R Ltd (Haverfordwest); Theatr Mwldan (Cardigan); Towy Community Church (Carmarthen).

Image Caption: Paul Griffiths from Xcel Bowl - a project delivered by Towy Community Church

Social enterprise, Antur Stiniog, was conceived as a vehicle for the community to take control of their own future. Blaenau Ffestiniog had been in decline for many years and a poor image of the town was a real obstacle in delivering regeneration and creating new vibrancy. Regeneration investment had been made in public realm improvements, and a number of schemes had sought to nurture more confidence and create new opportunities, but more was needed to turn the community around.

Opened in 2012, the downhill bike tracks that Antur Stiniog created are now regarded by many top riders as some of the finest in Europe. Antur Stiniog has grown from two part-time workers to employing between 15-20 staff today. This has been achieved through reinvesting the income secured and obtaining additional investment to develop new activities to grow the business.

The success of the downhill bike centre has helped develop the tourism offering in the area and also attracted private investment from the likes of Zipworld and Surf Snowdonia. It has created a new vibrancy in the town centre, bringing in around 12,000 to 15,000 visitors each year.

Helen McAteer, General Manager of Antur Stiniog, said:

“Making this proof-of-concept investment in the mountain bike trails and the uplift was a brave thing to do and hugely important at a time when a commercial tourism offer was struggling in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Developing these new business activities around the landscape and the old quarry has developed people’s confidence and is a beacon of hope for what can be achieved.”

Image Caption: Downhill bike track at Antur Stiniog

Economy Secretary, Ken Skates said:

“The recent ‘Mapping the Social Business Sector in Wales’ report, showed just how much the sector has grown in the last two years. It also highlighted the range of  crucial services the sector  provides in our communities from plugging  gaps in private and public sector provision, to helping  improve educational attainment, providing social care in people’s homes and reducing inequalities, particularly in our most deprived communities.

“The  ‘Local, fairer, stronger: social businesses creating growth in Wales’ report provides more useful insight into the value of the sector, providing real-life examples of exactly how social businesses work to stimulate economic growth within their regions.

“There is no  doubt that social enterprises are  playing an increasingly important role in all aspects of Welsh life and we look forward to continued close working with the sector to support its ongoing growth.”

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, the national body for social enterprises and co-operatives in Wales, added:

“In the current environment, which sees uncertainty regarding the effects of Brexit and potential massive investment in large-scale infrastructure projects via City Deals, social businesses offer a ‘ground up’ community-led approach to economic and community development. There is a considerable opportunity to further support social businesses to maximise their potential and allow them to make an even greater contribution to community regeneration in Wales.”

Local, fairer, stronger: social businesses creating growth in Wales report, is commissioned and published by Social Business Wales, an £11m European Regional Development and Welsh Government funded project, which is part of the Business Wales family and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre. To read the report and eight businesses profiled as part of the research, please visit http://bit.ly/socialbusinesswalesreport