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Best in business winners get Royal Seal of approval with Queen’s Award

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

Firms across the Black Country and Staffordshire are part of a celebration of the best of British enterprise on Her Majesty The Queen's birthday.

Fortress Interlocks in Wolverhampton, one of the Queens Award winners unveiled today

They are among 230 companies nationwide that have received the Queen's Award for Enterprise - considered the most prestigious business award in the UK.

Locally the winning companies are Fortress Interlocks in Wolverhampton, Fairfax Saddles in Walsall, Burntwood-based Busy Bees Nurseries, Addmaster in Stafford and the Wool Packing Company in Stone.

Addmaster and Fortress have both received award for International Trade. It is a second award for Addmaster, one of Europe's leading manufacturers of performance-enhancing additives plastics, paper textile, paints and coatings industries.

Paul Morris, Addmaster founder & CEO said: "Having just completed another record financial year with exports again growing strongly, it is a testament to the staff and all their efforts that we have been recognised again."

Fortress Interlocks, with its headquarters on Inverclyde Drive, off Birmingham New Road, designs and manufacturers safety systems to protect people and equipment in the industrial workplace.

It has won a Queens Award for International Trade for outstanding short term growth in overseas sales over the last three years. The company started trading in 1977, winning the Queens Award for Innovation in 2007 and International Trade in 2008.

Overseas sales have increased by 55 per cent, from £11.7 million to £18.2 million, with overseas sales now accounting for over 80 per cent of all business, selling across Europe, the Americas and Asia/Pacific.

Jo Smith, managing director at Fortress Interlocks, said: "I am delighted that Fortress Interlocks has been awarded a Queens Award for Enterprise for International Trade 2018, through the dedication and hard working of our teams who all deserve this special recognition for our continued growth.

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"We are a Midlands-born company who pride ourselves on a family focus – both in terms of our internal culture and how our products protect people and their families.

"Fortress safety equipment ensures that anyone who works in a dangerous manufacturing environment returns home safely to their loved ones every day – it’s something we all take immense importance and pride in.

"We plan to celebrate the award with our employees and their families in the summer months."

Walsall saddle manufacturer Fairfax has won its award for Innovation, after developing an innovative new design for the girth that holds a horse saddle in place. The improved comfort and freedom of movement delivered by the company's new Performance Girth was demonstrated when it was used by the gold medal-winning British equestrian team at the 2012 Olympics.

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The Queen's Award looks at the success of an innovation over a five year period, during which time the Performance Girth has established itself as a firm favourite with many riders, including Olympic sportspeople.

The company's continuing success saw it move into a purpose-built new factory in Bloxwich last year.

The patented design of the Performance Girth was the result of a lengthy study using state of the art scientific techniques. “No scientific data existed to show how much pressure an ordinary girth exerted on the horse, and how this impacted on its movement,” explained director Vanessa Fairfax, the girth’s designer.

“Using pressure mapping and gait analysis technology, we were able to see that girth pressure actually hinders the horse’s natural movement.”

Vanessa used her findings to design a girth that removes this pressure and allows the horse to move without restriction, transforming traditional tack into performance-enhancing equipment. The research and test results were published as a peer-reviewed paper in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

This innovative approach of using technology and science, combined with traditional craftsmanship and British manufacturing, makes Fairfax Saddles unique in the UK saddlery trade and the company now has a range of girths, saddles and bridles, as well as a new breastplate, all of which have been independently tested under scientific conditions to prove that they enhance the horse's way of going.

“Innovation based on rigorous research and testing has become something of an addiction for us”, said managing director Rupert Fairfax – Vanessa's husband. “After all, it’s better to know something than just having to rely on guess-work."

The thriving Busy Bees nursery group, based in Burntwood, has received an award for Promoting Opportunity. It is now the largest childcare provider in the UK, with nearly 500 nurseries worldwide.

Partly in response to a recruitment crisis in the nursery sector, Busy Bees developed an apprenticeship programme aimed at school leavers and disadvantaged groups such as those not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The company has also established an in-house Busy Bees Academy of Management (BAM) to develop its' employees leadership and management capability.

Chief academic officer and Busy Bees' co-founder Marg Randles said: “Receiving the Queen’s Award is the ultimate accolade recognising the commitment of our people. It reflects our drive to provide opportunities for passionate practitioners, unleashing their potential and allowing them to realise their dreams. It recognises that our success is down to helping the incredible people who help us to provide the best experiences for children.

“I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have a career doing something I love. Supporting others to follow their dream has a tremendous impact on the opportunities we provide for both staff and children.”

The Wool Packaging Company, based in Stone, Staffordshire, manufactures sustainable insulating packaging materials from sheep's wool, called Woolcool, which has won it a Queen's Award for Innovation.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has some of the most entrepreneurial and innovative minds in the world delivering jobs, growth and greater choice for consumers and I am proud to see a wealth of these businesses being recognised today.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, supporting more than 1 million jobs and revenues of nearly £95 billion in the West Midlands. Through our Industrial Strategy we are building a Britain in which they will continue to thrive.”

The winners will attend a royal reception at Buckingham Palace in the summer to celebrate the awards.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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