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Welsh business flock to event showcasing arena opportunities

More than 200 Welsh businesses attended an event that revealed the work to be offered as the £120m Swansea Central Phase One project is built.

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Principal contractor Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, working in collaboration with Swansea Council, wants to maximise the use of local and regional expertise.

The skills that will be required will range from brickwork to the supply of lift, and from fire protection to habitat enhancements.

Full details were available at yesterday's (note: Mar 7) free-entry meet-the-buyer event for all businesses.

The all-day event was held by Buckingham Group and the council in collaboration with industry support body Construction Futures Wales (CFW) which is jointly funded by Welsh Government and CITB (The Construction Industry Training Board) Wales.

Steve Peake, of ITS Construction Personnel's Swansea office, said: "We're here today to get to know this regeneration scheme's principal contractor. Our aim then is to get local construction workers onto this project."

Mike Porter, of Swansea builders and timber merchants Exall and Jones, said: "We want to become one of the suppliers to Swansea Central Phase One. We've been established locally for more than 30 years and we want to be involved in what is a major local initiative. We're an independent family firm - and we're more than capable of supplying big projects such as this."

Joe James, of Port Talbot-based Emroch Landscapes, said: "This meet-the-buyer event helps to increase our visibility and to develop the business. The construction project is a good opportunity to work for a major client and to get a slice of a £120m pie. It'd be brilliant to be involved in a prestigious initiative right on our doorstep; opportunities like that come around perhaps once every 15 or 20 years."

Sandra Haste, of Barlo Radiators, based in Newport, Gwent, said: "We make our radiators in Wales, use Port Talbot steel and aim to take every opportunity to invest in Wales. It's good to see a big contractor such as Buckingham also interested in harnessing Welsh expertise."

Luke Jamieson, of Cardigan-based First Floor Coatings, said: "We want to secure work on Swansea Central Phase One and use that as a platform to grow the business. It's good to see Swansea growing - the arena and associated developments could be absolutely fantastic for the city."

Richard Wilson, of Wilson Tree Surveys, based near Newcastle Emlyn, said: "It's important to be at today's event - it allows me to make contacts and to introduce the business to other professionals. I'm passionate about greenery in the environment and I know it can help regenerate Swansea and make the city centre an urban hub for west Wales."

Bridgend-based Bob Brewer, of infrastructure and energy specialists SOCOTEC UK, said: "I'm interested to see the forward plans for Swansea and to understand what opportunities there'll be for the business. We're all about investing in the local economy and we want to be involved in shaping it."

The meet-the-buyer event took place at the Liberty Stadium. It included discussions between businesses and exhibitors, and one-to-one pre-arranged meetings.

Swansea Central Phase One will bring a 3,500-capacity indoor arena, coastal park, plaza, landmark bridge, car parking, homes and commercial premises created on a key city centre site.

Council leader Rob Stewart, a speaker at the event, said: "Swansea Central Phase One is all about bringing investment to Swansea and the region

"It will help regenerate the city for generations to come. A key part of that is to ensure that local business have the opportunity to benefit.

"We said that our major transformational city centre projects would deliver significant opportunities for local firms. This is us delivering on that promise."

Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "It was wonderful that the meet-the-buyer event attracted such a strong turn out

"It was all about introducing Buckingham to new Welsh subcontractors and suppliers.

"Exhibitors were there to provide help and support to businesses on wide range of the contractor's requirements including community benefits, training and quality accreditation."

The exhibitors included the council's Beyond Bricks and Mortar project, Business Wales, building skills specialist CyfleNeath College and Gower College Swansea.

Kevin Underwood, Managing Director for Sports and Leisure at Buckingham Group Contracting, said: "We are greatly looking forward to working closely with Welsh businesses on this incredibly exciting scheme.

"We're confident of delivering high-quality work - and we're looking to work with suppliers and partners who can match our demands for the highest standards."

Paul Wintle, of Construction Futures Wales, said: "We want Welsh businesses to prosper and win new business; this meet-the-buyer event was a great opportunity to hear direct from a principal contractor eager to work with local enterprises.

"The event helped increase the supply chain for multiple elements of Swansea Central Phase One. It's a tremendously exciting opportunity."

Over the next six months, Buckingham Group are undertaking pre-construction services including detailed design, costings and preparatory work on the expansive site next to Swansea's well-known LC leisure centre.

Their early work will prepare the project and site for the main build phase due to start in late summer this year. The transformation is due to be completed in 2021.

The digital indoor arena and digital plaza elements of Swansea Central Phase One are due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal. An investment programme in 11 transformational projects across South West Wales, the City Deal is projected to give the regional economy a £1.8 billion boost.

Also due to be part-funded by the City Deal are a digital village for tech businesses on Kingsway in Swansea city centre, and a box village and innovation precinct development for start-up companies at the new University of Wales Trinity Saint David campus in SA1.

Photo: Callum Bowden, left, and Steve Peake, of ITS Construction Personnel's Swansea office, at the Swansea Central Phase One meet-the-buyer event.

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