Slices of £1.4m Express & Star fund for best in the business

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Business leaders, academics and an MP today hailed the award of the first business grants from a £1.4 million fund set up by the Express & Star as a 'reward for dedication'.

The Green Shoots Fund, launched by the newspaper and the University of Wolverhampton, was created to help businesses to grow and create jobs.

The first two companies, each receiving £50,000 are Adams Enclosures in Brownhills and Phoenix Cutting Services in Wednesfield.

The money has come from the Government's Regional Growth Fund and is accompanied by support from the university's Business Solutions Centre.

Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds was one of a cross party group of politicians to back the Green Shoots fund.

Phoenix Cutting Services falls within her constituency.

She said: "The Express and Star and University of Wolverhampton have seen the great potential of Phoenix Cutting Services and have recognised the company as a sound platform for investment and growth.


"The fund will allow Phoenix to grasp new opportunities and break into new markets. They have shown hard work and determination and this news will provide a fitting reward for that dedication."

Business leaders also believe the economy is starting to pick up, with the Green Shoots Fund offering help to companies to make the most of it.

Paul Bennett, president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: "Successful applicants are showing great determination to succeed. They have not been deterred by challenges in securing more traditional finance, but are demonstrating a real commitment to growth."

Professor Ian Oakes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for research and external engagement at the University of Wolverhampton, said: "The university is extremely proud to be playing an integral part in revitalising the economy in the Black Country. It has been an extremely competitive process."


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Now we're doing it for ourselves

When the company they worked for closed its site in Wolverhampton, Scott Hilton and his colleagues decided to go into business for themselves.

Four years later and Phoenix Cutting Services has lived up to its name.

Now, with a £50,000 grant from the Express & Star Green Shoots Fund, the Wednesfield-based company is looking not only to rise but to grow.

Seven people work for Phoenix at its site on the Planetary Industrial Estate and five of them are directors. The grant will allow a further two jobs to be created and help to fund an overhaul of vital equipment.

Funding for new growth – members of staff from Phoenix Cutting Services, on the Planetary Industrial Estate, Wednesfield

While the directors have donned their overalls in recent years, showing they are certainly not afraid to be hands on, the two new jobs would mean key staff can step away from the operational tasks and get on with finding new business opportunities to help Phoenix continue to grow.

Its main work is in laser cutting of sheet and plate materials. It takes a plywood sheet and cuts tiny 1mm holes in it for the packaging and printing industries.

It also manufactures flatbed cutting tools for platten and roller press applications. Its tools are used in the production of labels, gaskets and specialist membranes.

The firm has recently won a supply contract with Northampton-based Kappa. It expects to gain £270,000 in new sales against an annual turnover of £540,000.

While it has the latest computer aided design systems, to make the most of its chances to grow, Phoenix needs to buy a used two kilowatt laser cutter. Phoenix has come a long way from its beginnings but its success has been down to hard work.

The entire workforce comprises of Mr Hilton, fellow directors Paul Nursey, Geoff Carrington, Paul Davies and Mark Jones, as well as tool makers Mark Langston and Cliff Bagnall. Father-of-two Mr Hilton, aged 41, will often be in work at 5am while colleagues will be on a night-shift. When they started, they were delivering their products in a colleague's Vauxhall Zafira.

Now, with the help of Green Shoots and the backing of customers, they hope to move to larger premises within three years.

The team are all former employees of Ralegh Cutting Forms, which had transferred their jobs from Wolverhampton to the North East in 2009.

Mr Hilton said: "If we perform well then there's room for growth. At the moment we're running a night-shift with the machines going 16 hours a day.

"What we want to do is buy machinery that is much faster than what we have at the moment. We've come a long way in a short space of time. This funding will give us the opportunity to build on the successes of our first few years and grow."

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