Work has begun on the construction of the West Midlands' first enterprise centre specially designed for companies in the food and drink industry.
Shropshire Food and Drink Centre at Shropshire Food Enterprise Park near Shrewsbury will be home to up to 12 start-up businesses. The £6 million development, funded by Shropshire County Council and Advantage West Midlands, will also include training and meeting facilities and a 4,000 square metre enterprise centre.
Advantage West Midlands chief executive John Edwards and John Hurst-Knight, portfolio holder for waste and economy at Shropshire County Council formally kicked off the construction on Friday with chosen design and build contractor, Allenbuild Ltd.
The work on the centre - which is being project managed by Davis Langdon - will be complete and occupants ready to move in by September 2008.
A centre management company will be appointed by Shropshire County Council to begin the process of securing tenants.
The centre will form the first stage of development of the wider Shropshire Food Enterprise Park which is being developed by PxP on behalf of Advantage West Midlands.
John Edwards, AWM Chief Executive, said: "The food and drink industry has major barriers for start-up companies as there is a shortage of specialist units that have the right specification.
"Food and drink is a major industry in our region with 6,000 companies involved in the industry, employing 40,000 staff, with a forecast growth rate of 2.5 per cent over the next five years. Shrewsbury is ideally located for a facility such as this and by this time next year should be home to thriving and growing food and drink businesses."
Coun John Hurst-Knight, said: "I am delighted that work is now under way.
"This is an excellent opportunity for businesses that want to grow in a county known for its high quality food production and increasingly, for its high technology growth sectors, within a centre dedicated to providing special-ist support to new and diversifying food and drink processors.
"It is not only of great benefit to Shrewsbury, but also to Shropshire as a whole."
Don Steward, business development director at Allenbuild, said: "Allenbuild are carving a niche within the food and drink sector, and we are delighted to be involved with such an exciting project in Shropshire and indeed working with such an enthusiastic team.
"We have previously completed a very similar scheme in Nottingham, a project which has provided the catalyst for many new businesses to grow and prosper, I am sure when completed this project will provide an excellent environment for businesses to develop."