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Social businesses are creating local growth, says report

Bangor Gymnastics Club, a finalist in the Social Business Wales awards 2016

Social businesses can help stimulate local economies, create jobs and attract private investment in areas with little economic activity, according to a new report published by the Wales Cooperative Centre.

A study of eight social businesses across Wales that have experienced or are planning for growth, it offers insights into how social businesses can be stimulated and supported to play a vital role in local economies.

One of the case studies in the report is Antur Nantlle, an example of a core business – running local affordable business units – which has also delivered capital projects to ensure that local services are retained.

Its first purchase was a disused depot owned by the council which it turned into a business and incubation centre, where local businesses rent spaces at low rates.

In 1997 it bought another local building in order to retain the local library service and create a technology centre for ICT training. And in 2002 it bought a building from the local bank and leased part of it back to ensure the service remains.

Towy Community Church is another example of how a social business can extend its reach and join together a number of local activities. Its first business was a ten-pin bowling alley, after a public consultation identified the need for local leisure activities. Using its relationships with the local council, it undertook the asset transfer of a redundant warehouse to extend its activities into a furniture recycling business, charity shop and food bank.

In Pembrokeshire an agricultural cooperative was set up in 1991 to bring like-minded farmers together to share machinery. The Pembrokeshire Machinery Ring has now spread throughout the whole of south west Wales and helps farmers share and support each other and also to combine their trading and bulk purchasing services.

The report, called Local, Fairer, Stronger: social businesses creating growth in Wales, makes the case for social businesses to be at the heart of local economies, particularly in rural, post-industrial, inner city and coastal communities.

It says: ‘There is a considerable opportunity to further support social businesses to maximize their potential and allow them to make an even greater contribution to community regeneration in Wales.’

  • Read the full report here.

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