Transforming a disused department store in the Rhondda Valley into an enterprise hub, identifying local construction suppliers in Neath Port Talbot that could deliver packages of work under £25k, and developing an app that links businesses that need each other’s skills are just three of the 27 Valleys based projects that will share more than £2.2 million from the Welsh Government to test new ways of growing the everyday parts of the economy.

First published:
25 October 2019
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Deputy Minister for Economy, Lee Waters and Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn visited the former Co-op store in Tonypandy to see how the Rhondda Housing Association scheme which has been awarded £100,000 will see the vacant premises renovated with the aim of revitalising the high street.

The funding boost comes from the Valleys Taskforce’s contribution to the Welsh Government’s Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, which aims to improve the way the local economy works in order to address the feeling reflected in the EU referendum that parts of Wales are being left behind.

Today’s announcement focuses on 27 Valleys based projects out of 50 experimental projects across Wales that are being announced in the coming weeks to trial different approaches to local economic development. Wales is the first country in the world to embrace the ‘Foundational Economy’ approach, which is being taken up by cities and regions across the world.

The Foundational Economy is made up of the everyday goods and services we all use and need.

Luke Takeuchi, CEO of Rhondda Housing Association said:

“We are delighted that Welsh Government has supported our bid as part of the challenge fund to support the Foundational Economy.

“We plan to regenerate this key area of Tonypandy’s town centre and the foundational economy principles form a key part of our strategic thinking for the project. We have invested in this site as we feel there is genuine potential to better utilise local skills and creative ideas to develop a vibrant mixed-use site that will improve the health, wellbeing and prosperity of local people.

The Valleys Taskforce has been working closely with businesses, employers and individuals in the region to make them aware of the types of support and opportunities available to them to boost their financial sustainability.

As a result of the demand and quality of applications, the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund’s budget for the whole of Wales has been almost trebled to around £4.5 million, this includes support from the Valleys Taskforce. Businesses and enterprises were able to apply for up to £100,000 of project funding.

Lunax Digital in Caerphilly has also been awarded £100,000 to develop an App which allows users to swap time and skills. The app could be used, for example, to bring together two businesses who need each other’s skills and rather than set a price for the work they agree to swap each other’s time to achieve their aims.

Francesca Irving, Lunax Digital Managing Director said:

“Our app, Swapp, started off as a hypothetical and recreational project undertaken as part of the Caerphilly Hackathon earlier this year. We were delighted to have been chosen as the winning team for the day, but even more thrilled to have been asked to officially submit our project to Welsh Government to be considered for funding.

“Getting the go ahead on this project is a real blessing, as supporting start-up businesses is something we are hugely passionate about and currently weave into our own businesses, as is supporting deprived communities and enabling everyone to fulfil their potential, no matter the circumstance.

Following the visit to Tonypandy, Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said:

“Investing more than £2.2 million in these projects is a clear demonstration of our commitment to Valleys communities and perfectly complements our ambitions as set out in Our Valleys, Our Future.

“Supporting the Foundational Economy, which is also made up of many small and medium sized businesses, is a key priority for Welsh Government and accounts for one in every four jobs in the South Wales Valleys. We know how important this part of the economy is to livelihoods and the future of our towns and villages, which is why we have trebled the amount available through the fund for projects across Wales.

“The 27 schemes being awarded funding in the Valleys have the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives. From projects aimed at bringing vacant buildings back into use as seen in Tonypandy, to supporting social care initiatives to developing walking routes to attract people to the region – the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is all about delivering positive changes.

“The Fund is also part of our response the dissatisfaction some communities expressed through the referendum and the wider challenges and uncertainty of Brexit. As a government, we are committed to supporting our communities, to safeguarding and creating  jobs and to building economic growth that we all want to see.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:

“It’s been great to visit Tonypandy today to see how Welsh Government investment is helping bring a disused premises back into use for the benefit of local people.

“We recognise the challenges facing local people and local businesses in Tonypandy as they work to create a town centre which is an attractive, vibrant place for people to live, work and visit.

“This funding will help to create job opportunities and increase footfall which will be important in contributing to the local economy.

“We are committed to revitalising areas to promote economic growth that benefits our towns and communities. I look forward to seeing this investment support the area to grow and flourish.

More information about the projects awarded funding can be found on the Business Wales website.