A regional food and drink innovation centre, the only one of its kind in the South West, is on schedule to open in Weston-super-Mare in spring next year.
Work on The Food WorksSW started at the end of last year and is progressing well.
The latest milestone in the North Somerset Council project takes place on Wednesday 29 May with a steel signing ceremony to mark completion of the structure of the building.
Situated within the DEFRA designated Food Enterprise Zone in the heart of the Junction 21 Enterprise Area, the £11m centre is funded by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund. It is being built by contractors Willmott Dixon.
The Food WorksSW will provide 12 food grade business units for lease, access to a range of product development facilities and specialist technical and business support. The centre will act as a focal point for food and drink manufacturers across the South West region, helping new businesses to get started and established producers to innovate and grow.
It will create around 250 new jobs and will play a vital role in the council’s bid to drive forward growth in the North Somerset economy.
The council has awarded a 15-year contract to Nottingham-based The Food and Drink Forum Ltd to operate the centre on its behalf. The Food and Drink Forum operates similar food centres in Nottingham and Leicester and manages a large European funded business support programme for food businesses.
The contract started this month giving the operators the opportunity and time to influence the fit-out of the centre, sign up occupiers and take bookings for the centre in readiness for when it opens next spring. Further details on the business units, facilities and support will become available over the coming months.
“Construction of The Food WorksSW is well under way and is attracting a strong level of interest from across the region,” said Cllr Mark Canniford, North Somerset Council executive member for business, economy and employment. “The size of the food and drink industry in the area shows we need to be producing more locally and the support we are giving this project means there will be the opportunity to do that.
“The enquiries we are receiving will help guide the development of the business support and technical advice programme. This will ensure the right level of support and access to facilities is available to enable those starting up to test out their ideas with a food technician, support businesses wishing to scale-up and those more established businesses to innovate and bring new products to market.”
Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is an exciting development for the region’s food and drink industry and we’re very pleased to be supporting it.
“There is no other centre in the region that provides the facilities and services that will be offered by Food WorksSW. It will give new businesses and established producers the opportunity to collaborate, innovate, identify new markets, create new jobs and grow.”
John Boughton, Deputy MD Willmott Dixon, said: “We are proud to be delivering a building that will directly support the local and regional economy of North Somerset. In addition to the building, we are also ensuring that the project delivers additional social benefits to the local community.
“Through our social value plan, the project is providing mentoring, work experience, apprenticeships and employment to people local to the project. We have also started a programme of educational engagements, reaching out to local schools to offer a range of STEM and career opportunities.
“I look forward to seeing the final building. I am confident it will be a great asset to the region.”