Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has announced its vision for a transformational project to boost the rural economy in North Wales.
The Glynllifon Rural Economy Hub, planned for Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's Coleg Glynllifon campus, will comprise a Food Enterprise Park, providing food grade units for both start-up and established producers; a Knowledge Centre, creating a pool of practical experience to support innovation and enterprise growth in the region; and a Demonstration Site for private sector developments, stimulating innovation in fields such as sustainable energy, robotics and telecommunications.
The proposed £13m scheme forms part of the North Wales Growth Bid and would create an estimated 91 direct jobs during the construction phase, with 80 jobs accommodated within the Rural Economy Hub when operational. It will work with partners across North Wales to ensure that the impact on the economy is even greater than this.
Dr Ian Rees, Executive Director Business Development at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai said:
This is an ambitious and transformational development as part of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's commitment to supporting the rural economy in North Wales. The project will deliver jobs, growth and wealth to rural communities.
"Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has a strong track record of supporting the food and drink sector. Our Food Technology Centre at the Coleg Menai campus in Llangefni, Anglesey, plays a key role in transferring knowledge to the food industry in Wales and internationally. This project builds on that expertise and best practice and provides additional capacity to meet demand.
"We're especially excited that the scheme is private sector led and is derived directly from what the region's businesses have told us they need. We conducted a comprehensive survey of food and drink producers across North Wales to test the concept and conducted in-depth case studies of 10 of those businesses.
"The feasibility of this development, along with the resulting Outline Business Case, was undertaken on our behalf by Arad Consulting with the financial support of Welsh Government. The outline business case based on these surveys, along with discussions with stakeholders who work in rural development in North Wales, indicated that the proposed scheme will strengthen and enhance the regional economy, specifically through growing the food and drink sector across North Wales and developing a cluster of expertise. Crucially, also, it will place a strong emphasis on research, development and innovation.
"The Hub's setting is also a key element of the proposals. Glynllifon has a long and proud reputation for delivering vocational courses to support the rural economy. Whilst having an economic impact across North Wales, the Glynllifon Rural Economy Hub will be a state-of-the-art facility located at the western edge of Gwynedd, easily accessible from anywhere in North Wales.
"The development will enhance and enrich the experience of learners and staff at Glynllifon, whilst creating jobs, supporting rural businesses and promoting economic growth in North Wales. Overall, our projections show an annual Gross Value Added (GVA) impact of over £3.1m based on the new jobs that will be created."
Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's proposals aim to address the under-supply of food grade business units across the region, with an estimated 200 businesses per annum set to access services and facilities from the Hub, which will feature 2,300sqm of dedicated specialist food grade accommodation in units ranging in size from 50sqm to 500sqm and a 938sqm Knowledge Centre. An estimated 20 firms would be located permanently at the Hub, with many other rural businesses benefiting from being part of the local supply chain.
Dr Ian Rees continued: "A collaborative approach is key as we develop our plans further and we will only be able to deliver our ambitious targets with the support of partners from the public and private sectors. We are also keen to work with partners across North Wales to extend the reach of our work."
At a high-level meeting in late May, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai outlined their plans to Lesley Griffiths AM, the Welsh Government's Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, along with representatives from Gwynedd Council.
Following the meeting, Lesley Griffiths AM expressed her support for the scheme. She said:
The Glynllifon Rural Economy Hub is a transformational development that would benefit rural companies across North Wales, especially in the Food and Drink Sector. It is important that we support and promote rural North Wales to ensure a growing economy across the region."
Outlining the next steps for the project, Dr Ian Rees said: "We are delighted with the early feedback we have received on our proposals and our focus is now on maintaining the momentum and securing the right funding package.
"We hope to secure approximately £10m as part of a North Wales Growth Deal, which would leave approximately £3m left to raise. We're already in talks with potential partners and are optimistic that the right package can be put together to make this important project a reality."