A LOSS-MAKING business centre credited with creating 750 jobs is receive a cash-injection from its local authority owners intended to turn its fortunes around.
The Springboard centre at Llantarnam Park, Cwmbran provides space and support to new start up businesses but has struggled to attract tenants since the Covid, pandemic in 2020, while Torfaen Borough Council, also blames Brexit for its downturn.
The 25,000 square foot centre, that cost £4.1 million when it opened in 2006 with support from the European Union, has been described, by the council, as having been a success until around 2020 but just 49 per cent of the three-storey building is currently occupied.
Independent advice on how to turn the centre’s fortunes around was commissioned, from Oxford Innovation, and its future has been considered by a council scrutiny committee on three occasions since 2022.
The Labour controlled council’s cabinet has now agreed to use £343,000 from its economy directorate’s reserve to carry out building repairs and “cosmetic enhancements” to make it more attractive to tenants and prospective occupiers.
As part of the overhaul of the centre that council will also seek a commercial partner, for at least 12 months, to support its transformation deliver a specific programme of marketing and events and provide structured training and advice.
The centre is currently run by a small number of staff, directly employed by the council, who will remain in post.
By the end of the third year of the planned project it is expected income can be raised from the current £97,000 a year to around £305,000.
A report to the cabinet stated its business case suggests Springboard can move from “a significant loss-making venture, with an annual net expenditure deficit of £210k currently, to a position where costs and income are more evenly balanced” with the annual deficit reduced to around £11,000 by the end of the third year.
The council will then have to once again consider the future of the centre and if it wishes to make further investments in it following the phased thee year enhancement plan.
The report said Springboard had previously been considered a success and that it generated £194,000 in income in 2019 when occupancy rates stood at 72 per cent.
Since opening in 2006 the centre has been credited with having attracted a total of 126 businesses and creating 750 new jobs. The intention is that new businesses move on from the centre and of those 126 there are 38 now located within South East Wales and 12 in Torfaen.