Thursday, June 22, 2017

News: Gulliver's excited for Rotherham site

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Gulliver's, the firm behind a proposed £37m leisure resort in Rotherham, has reiterated its commitment to the Rother Valley site that is bigger than all of its current parks combined.

Planning permission was granted earlier this year subject to a number of conditions and the family-owned business is purchasing around 250 acres of the restored former colliery and opencast site from Rotherham Council.

The scheme is expected to be built over 12 - 15 years in a number of phases. Phase one includes the main Gulliver's theme park with three themed areas, the entrance hub and castle, and is set to open in 2020.

Providing an update at the recent meeting of the Rotherham Pioneers, Richard Welby, who worked his way up to becoming a resort manager for Gulliver's, conveyed the excitement that the established firm has for the Rotherham site.

Welby said: "Our board was unanimous in deciding on Rotherham as our fourth site. It has a bigger sq ft than all of our current sites combined and is an amazing site."

The operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes, developed the plans for the first of their sites in the UK to encompass all their major family entertainment elements in one location with new attractions exclusive to Rotherham such as rides and attractions relating to transport and classic cars.

Welby added that he expects the £37m capital investment to "significantly rise."

The proposals are expected to create around 400 jobs and have a total annual operating net economic impact on the local economy of £11.6m.

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The overall site is approximately 98 hectares in area comprising the northern part of the Rother Valley Country Park. 215,000 sq ft of buildings are proposed, including: Main Street featuring an indoor, year round attraction including a splash zone, interactive play areas and NERF zone; five key ride areas providing over 40 rides and attractions; three hotels; themed holiday lodges, themed leisure facilities; and a spa and fitness centre.

Further details of the attractions set for Gulliver's Valley, including Liliput Castle, a log flume, Antelope, Pirate Coaster, Tower Ride, farm park and pet resort, can be found here.

Discussing some of the features and attractions, Welby added: "We are not in competition with Rother Valley, what we do will compliment the offer at the county park. People in the industry laughed when we told them that some parts of our park will be accessed for free but we think it is really important."

Public rights of way have been incorporated within the scheme without the need for diversions. A number of courtesy footpaths have also been included which will be available for use during daylight hours.
The Rotherham site is also set to include a "Dream Village" which the company had been looking to do for a number of years and has now found the perfect site for. The concept involves seriously and terminally ill children, together with children with special needs, given the chance of a lifetime to enjoy cost-free respite weeks and much needed getaway.

Speaking with experience, Richard said: "This will have national significance. Again, it doesn't make great business sense to invest in something that will be given away for free, but it is really important for us to do it."

Rotherham Council has long had ambitions for the Pit House West site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a national and international scale. Agreements relating to the YES! project and Visions of China developments were terminated due to the lack of progress.

Welby concluded: "We don't have investors or shareholders and, as a family firm, if we don't have the money in the bank, we don't do it.

"We are not another pie in the sky project, we are not another broken promise. We are coming!"

Rotherham Pioneers is an exclusive group for Rotherham businesses who want to promote the town, celebrate all that is good, and grow the Rotherham business community.

Gulliver's Valley website
Rotherham Pioneers website

Images: Gulliver's


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News: AME Group looks ahead as it celebrates 20 years in business

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AME Group, a leading prototype manufacturer that is based in Dinnington, is looking to develop its product design business as it celebrates 20 years since starting up in a concrete outbuilding at founder, Ian Jones' Rotherham home.

The innovative company combines a team of creative designers and technical designers who work on new products and create high-specification prototypes using 3D printing technology for customers including Dyson, GlaxoSmithKline, Hornby, Morphy Richards and Unilever.

The business was founded in 1997 after managing director Ian Jones - a mechanical engineering graduate, who cut his teeth working at the Selby coalfield - was made redundant from his job with British Coal.

Seeing the potential of 3D printing technology for prototyping, Ian drew up a business plan and raised enough money to buy an early print machine.

"When it arrived, it was absolutely rubbish," Jones recalls. "I am not sure it managed to produce one successful part. It was very slow and, in retrospect, had been launched too early. The positive side was that it opened a lot of doors to prospective clients and ultimately led me to discover other more reliable technologies and partners that were already using them."

One of AME Group's first clients was Stanley Tools, and the success of the partnership resulted in AME investing in new technology and premises.

Ian's long-standing friend and MBA qualified manager Paul Howell joined the business as joint managing director and co-owner and the Dinnington headquarters were built on the site of a former South Yorkshire colliery in 2006. The premises house a growing design team and state-of-the-art prototyping workshop.

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Jones (pictured, right) said of the growing business: "We had become highly skilled at prototyping but we knew there was an opportunity to move upstream and get closer to our clients by using our expertise in product design. Securing work from globally renowned manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble showed that our approach was right."

Showing that the business is "not just about drawing pretty pictures," several innovative start-up businesses have been incubated at the AME Group who helped them to turn their ideas into commercially successful and market leading products. One example being the Identicom product, now the UK's most widely deployed dedicated lone worker device, that saw SoloProtect (formerly Connexion2) grow from Dinnington to new purpose built premises in Sheffield following a multimillion pound takeover.

AME employs 22 people and has a turnover of £1.5m. Having started out as a prototyping specialist, the future for AME Group is focused on developing its product design business. "We want to increase our design revenues over the next three to five years," says Ian "and continue to deliver the very best in innovative product design services, developing market leading products solutions for our clients, helping their businesses experience commercial success."

The quality of the work produced was recently recognised with a prestigious Red Dot product design award for its work on JigTech Pro, an innovative device that enables door handles to be fitted in minutes.

Jones concluded: "I'm proud of the fact that we have traded very successfully throughout the ups and downs of a changing economy but, most of all, I'm proud of the way the business has developed its staff. Several people have been with us for more than 15 years. Paul and I are not micro managers. We give freedom to the team to grow.

“We are not a massive company but we have a highly credible and experienced team that inspires confidence from a diverse portfolio of clients that see us as a strategic product development partner."

AME Group website

Images: AME Group


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News: Greening launches Social Mobility Employer Index

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Justine Greening MP, the Rotherham-born Secretary of State for Education, and Minister for Women and Equalities, has helped to launch a new index to encourage firms to share their initiatives and progress in becoming more inclusive employers and to reveal which sectors and companies are taking the issue of social mobility most seriously.

The Social Mobility Employer Index is a joint initiative between the Social Mobility Foundation and the Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation. It ranks Britain's employers for the first time on the actions they are taking to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds and it showcases progress towards improving social mobility.

Research has consistently shown that people from more affluent backgrounds take a disproportionate number of the best jobs and that employers tend to disproportionately employ graduates who went to private schools and elite universities.

Having previously talked about finding and nurturing "rough diamonds," the MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields spoke at the launch of the index. Greening said: "I think talent is spread evenly throughout our country, throughout our communities; and fundamentally our country would be better the more we can unlock all of that. I think we can change the internal plumbing of our country to make it more socially mobile.

"We don't want people to just be going into jobs. We want them to be going into careers where they can continue to develop themselves and their ideas and their potential throughout their whole life, not just at the beginning of it.

"That's where business comes in. That's also where communities and civil society comes in. The launch of this Index today is about starting to put some numbers and evidence around how we can do that systematically and at scale."

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The Conservative minister, who attended Oakwood Comprehensive School and Thomas Rotherham College, also talked about growing up in the borough. She added: "We do need to recognise that there are a myriad of barriers – some of them big but some of them small – that stack up against people who are starting perhaps from further behind. People who, when we talk about a level playing field, are the ones furthest away from having it.

"I certainly remember from my own childhood growing up in Rotherham it was a very difficult time, actually. Many of the children growing up in that town, including myself, saw our parents lose their jobs and you felt like you were a long way from seeing opportunity on your doorstep.

"This steady realisation as quite a young child for me, that to get opportunity I was going to have to work a long time, and very hard, just to get myself into a position to be able to start to have some opportunities.

"I knew also that the beginning of that was education and probably being able to go university. Which is why the fact that so many more disadvantaged children are now getting into university for the first time, why people like me back in the 80s and 90s are no longer the norm and actually it’s pretty normal for people from those backgrounds to get to university now, why that’s so important."

The first comprehensive school educated secretary of state for education studied at Southampton University, earning an MBA from the London Business School and used to work in business.

The banking, legal and professional sectors make up the bulk of the top 50 employers in the index. Rolls Royce Plc enters at number 21. The Derby firm has a £110m casting facility on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and works along side the AMRC Training Centre to bring through the manufacturing workforce of the future.

Social Mobility Foundation website

Images: DfE


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

News: CEO with big job at the big house

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The chief executive that has lead the transformation of a historic mill into a business hub and visitor destination admitted that only a big challenge could persuade her to take on another job and the restoration of Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham is certainly that.

Sarah McLeod will take on the CEO role at the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT) next month, moving from the World Heritage site at Cromford Mills in Derbyshire.

With the backing of a £7.6m Government grant, the sale of Wentworth Woodhouse went through earlier this year. Under the ownership of the WWPT, a restoration and development will provide jobs, stimulate local employment and open "the big house" to the public on a regular basis.

The charitable company limited by guarantee recruited McLeod for the chief executive role for what it describes as a "once in generation chance to secure Wentworth Woodhouse and ensure it occupies its rightful place as a public asset and one of the UK's most interesting and important Grade 1 listed country houses."

Early proposals show that the North wing is set to host a huge range of weddings and events and the stables will become home to dynamic small businesses. Within the 18th century house and outbuildings more than a dozen apartments and cottages will be restored as lets for holiday makers. The aim is preserve the house and grounds on a long term sustainable basis and raise funds for repairs and other essential works.

The role includes developing and delivering the vision for the Trust, leading the successful delivery of the capital works programme and overseeing the effective operation of the property.

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Speaking at the latest meeting of the Rotherham Pioneers, Sarah McLeoad, incoming CEO of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, described the role as a privilege. She said: "This role is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to oversee fundraising of £50m and the restoration of the country's largest stately home. Only something of such scale and opportunity could have prised me away from Cromford Mills.

"Wentworth Woodhouse is absolutely full of challenges. We are working on the masterplan which should take around six months before the major work takes place next year. We are already tendering for emergency repairs to the roof but the major challenge is keeping the place going, the gas bills etc, whilst we raise money for the development."

Funding has already come from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), The Monument Trust, Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement, the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, Art Fund, together with donations from the Fitzwilliam Amenity Trust and Lady Juliet Tadgell. The National Trust is also offering to take on aspects of running the house.

Further grants, funding and sponsorship is now being targeted to enable the restoration proposals to be carried out.

Mcleod discussed the transformation seen in her previous role and the adaptive reuse of a notable site of industrial heritage. In 1979 the educational charity, the Arkwright Society, purchased the site of Sir Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mill, the world's first successful water powered cotton spinning mill built in 1771.

Suffering from a complete lack of maintenance and unsuitable uses, a £50m restoration and development is underway to turn the site into a multi-use sustainable heritage, cultural, tourism and hospitality business and enterprise destination. The first phases include high-tech managed office-space and retail units alongside a £6.7m Visitor Gateway located in a previously derelict warehouse.

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Bringing her experience of working on a "complicated" project to Rotherham, McLeod admits that it may take double the initially estimated £40m to get Wentworth Woodhouse up to full use.

Talking of the potential of the project, Sarah added: "It is not just about restoration, but also about regeneration. We are addressing skills and education with a focus on apprenticeships. The project will cover, not just heritage, but catering, events and property management."

Plans for the restoration of the property, which was once at the heart of the community, employing almost all of the village, will be going out to public consultation. McLeod concluded: "Buildings only work with people using them."

The WWPT is a founding member of the the Rotherham Pioneers - an exclusive group for Rotherham businesses who want to promote the town, celebrate all that is good, and grow the Rotherham business community.

Wentworth Woodhouse website
Rotherham Pioneers website

Images: Rotherham Pioneers / Andrew Lyons Photography / HLF


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News: SCR at Paris Air Show

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The world's premier and largest event dedicated to the aviation and space industry, The Paris Air Show is taking place this week and representatives from the Sheffield city region are there.

Bringing together all the players in this global industry around the latest technological innovations, the first four days of the show focus on trade and industry, where major companies often announce massive deals and unveil new aircraft.

World-renowned engineering firm, Rolls-Royce, for example, announced a major order from Ethiopian Airlines to provide Trent XWB engines for ten new Airbus A350-900 aircraft worth $1.5 billion (around £1.19 billion).

Key parts of the engines are manufactured at the £110m Rotherham facility which manufactures turbine blades for a wide-range of Trent aero engines. The most advanced turbine blade casting facility in the world was officially opened on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham in 2015.

The Trent XWB is the world's most efficient large aero engine and has been selected by more than 40 customers to date. With over 1,600 engines ordered, it is also the fastest selling wide body jet engine ever.

Two types of turbine blades are manufactured at the Rotherham facility: high pressure (HP) and intermediate pressure (IP) single crystal blades. The blades are "grown" in a special process which ensures that they are created from a single metal crystal to maximise their strength. These SX blades generate the power of a Formula 1 racing car.

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Liberty Speciality Steels is also attending the Paris Air Show - the first since the Liberty House Group acquired the South Yorkshire based speciality steels business from Tata Steel. With an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) at Aldwarke in Rotherham, the businesss produces steel that is used in landing gear and aircraft engines including the landing gear of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Ashley Wilkinson, commercial director at Liberty Specilaity Steel, told trade magazine, Aerospace Manufacturing: "We have been producing aerospace grade steels in the Sheffield area for over sixty years, and today around half of our business is export. We supply aerospace speciality steels across the globe which is why attending the Paris Air Show is so key.

"With the introduction of a VIM furnace at the Speciality Steels site [at Stocksbridge] near Sheffield we are now able to deliver the highest purity stainless steel and alloys. This includes many grades that are used in the aerospace industry with its highly-demanding specification and quality requirements.

"A key change in approach to the supply chain was signalled by the investment in our AMC [The Advanced Machining Centre in Rotherham]. This allows us to support our customers supply chains by producing sophisticated finished components for aerospace applications. This has over £2m invested in advanced 5-axis machining for turning, milling and grinding finished aerospace components – enabling the machining of stainless steel, nickel alloys and titanium alloys."
US giant, Boeing used the event to officially launch the 737 Max 10 plane and announced that it had more than 240 orders and commitments, worth in the region of $30 billion. Boeing recently submitted a planning application for a new £20m production facility alongside the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

Rachel Clark, director of trade and investment for the Sheffield city region, said: "This region has an enviable track record in attracting investors. We're celebrating our best ever year for investment by foreign-owned companies, with partnership between all our nine local authorities bringing a massive £1.9 billion into the region, and more than 7,000 jobs created or safeguarded.

"Going to the air show – and our involvement with others such as the Innotrans rail exhibition and the flagship Huston Offshore Technologies conference – is fundamental to competing successfully on the world stage as we do.

"We aren't just competing with other UK regions, we're happy to be up against the likes of New York and Tokyo."

Rolls-Royce website
Liberty Speciality Steels website
SCR Invest website

Images: Rolls-Royce / Boeing


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