The announcement was made by Walsall Council-funded Winning Opportunities in Walsall (WOW), a two year business support programme designed to help firms in the borough innovate the way they work and launch new products across the world.
150 local companies have tapped into the mix of in-depth assistance and specialist development workshops to boost efficiency, cut costs and win contracts.
It has also resulted in 43 news jobs being created, ‘heritage apples’ being shown at the National Gallery, the development of a new £500,000 machine for the auto sector and a range of aesthetically pleasing window and door products.
All of these figures were released at the final WOW event, where five Innovation Change Ambassadors were appointed to carry on the legacy of the initiative and ensure the borough continues do ‘things differently’.
These include Catherine Franks (Strand Hardware), Matt Williams (Redbox Signmakers and ARK-I), Pushpa Alexander (Headzup Business), Raj Naphray (Choice Lets) and Stephen Preston (Kirkpatrick).
“When we launched WOW two years ago, we wanted to show local SMEs that innovation is much more than just about launching products and services…it’s also how you treat you customers, manage your supply chain and take waste out of your business,” explained Roy Bayliss, Project Lead.
“I believe we’ve achieved this switch in mindset and, with the introduction of five Innovation Change Ambassadors, we should see this legacy continue.”
He continued: “The quintet have all displayed outstanding vision and a willingness to try new things in order to make a difference. Catherine, Matt, Pushpa, Raj and Stephen will continue to promote innovation in their daily business roles, with education and amongst their networks and contacts.”
Funded by the Walsall Partnership through Walsall Council, WOW provided all companies with a one-to-one diagnostic to work up an action plan and then brought in skilled Innovation Change Partners to help meet objectives.
The in-depth assistance was boosted even further by 28 specialist workshops that attracted more than 300 delegates and was an important vehicle for cascading skills, sharing best practice, generating ideas, spotting opportunities and establishing a fresh approach.
This contributed to the programme surpassing all of its targets, with 43 jobs created, 340 safeguarded with £1m added to the economy against targets of 15, 80 and £300,000 respectively.
Councillor Adrian Andrew, Walsall Council cabinet member for regeneration, was pleased with the impact of the initiative:
“There is no doubt WOW has made a positive difference to firms in the borough and one that will continue in the long term.
“The project leads, the innovation change partners and, importantly, the companies have all worked together to bring new jobs and increased economic activity to Walsall.
“It is without doubt a great example of how business support should be delivered in the future.”
Other notable success stories from WOW include a contract to work on the media centre at the Olympic Village, a new equine product that could go global and the start of two new factory moves that will support expansion.
BJS Distribution has also been supported to hit £1m turnover in its 2nd year and a new website has helped Interface Signage secure new orders with the NHS that has led to the employment of two new apprentices.
Other exciting developments, still ‘under wraps’ for legal reasons, will see the impact of WOW extend into 2012 and beyond.
For further information, please contact Roy Bayliss on 07521 520227 or visit www.wowwalsall.co.uk