By Claire West

The Business Wales one-stop-shop service for SMEs has helped create nearly 9000 jobs and 6580 new businesses since it was launched two years ago, Economy Minister Edwina Hart announced yesterday.

In a Written Statement yesterday, marking the second anniversary of the pan-Wales business support service, the Minister said that in addition to supporting job creation and safeguarding a further 2,300 jobs, Business Wales provided advice to over 15,300 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), information and signposting to more than 35,800 other businesses and supported 25,800 individuals.

The service also dealt with over 62,500 enquiries through the Helpline, attracted nearly a million visits to its website, while social media channels reached over 58,000 followers. The sister service ‘Sell2Wales’ is now helping nearly 33,000 Welsh suppliers to compete for public service contract opportunities.

The Minister said:

"The Welsh Government remains committed to supporting and working with Welsh businesses and entrepreneurs to help them start and grow businesses and to create jobs in Wales.

"I established the Business Wales service to make it easier for Welsh businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs to access the information, advice and support they require to start and grow their businesses.

"Business Wales has now become established as a ‘one stop shop’ for individuals wishing to start up in business, as well as for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) wishing to grow their business in Wales.

"I am delighted with the progress Business Wales has made during the last two years and the contribution it is making to support the economy."

The latest data from StatsWales shows there are now 231,110 businesses in Wales, compared to 219,410 in 2013. And in 2013 there was a 37% increase in the number of registered (i.e. VAT or PAYE) business births compared to the previous year.

Mrs Hart added that maintaining a responsive approach to difficult situations is essential which is why she launched a further round of the £500,000 Business Wales SME Capital Investment Grant to create and safeguard SME jobs in Pembrokeshire following the collapse of the Murco Oil Refinery deal. This was in addition to a further round of the Welsh Economic Growth Fund

A new Business Wales access point was also opened in Milford Haven to ensure businesses that were impacted could access relevant advice and support.

The Minister said that, in conjunction with her advisory Boards, Chaired by Robert Lloyd Griffiths (Director Wales IoD — Business Wales Board) and James Taylor (MD SuperStars- Entrepreneurship Panel), she fully recognised the need to continually improve service quality and access for SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Over the coming months the Minister will provide further updates aligned to the future delivery strategy for Business Wales supported by EU structural funds.

This will include the Lending Ready Review undertaken by Robert Lloyd Griffiths, an enhanced focus on growth businesses and the Government’s role in enhancing the business environment in Wales working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology on our future strategy and approach.