The Council has provided grant funding to a local enterprise which has exciting plans to restart manufacturing at the former Polikoff and Burberry factory in Ynyswen, with highly-skilled former workers set to return to the site.
The former Burberry factory closed in 2007, ending all manufacturing at the site which had first started in the 1940s and brought huge employment to the area for generations. However, the newly-formed Treorchy Sewing Enterprise is progressing its ambition of restarting garment manufacturing operations, using invaluable experience of local factory workers who once worked there.
The group approached the Council and Welsh Government for support and received grant funding from both organisations. The Council approved a £10,000 grant for equipment from its Enterprise Investment Fund and has provided additional business support for the start-up organisation.
A spokesperson for Treorchy Sewing Enterprise said: “It all started around three years ago, although we were slowed by Covid, in recognition that there are highly-skilled sewers and cutters in the area who are either not employed or doing a far-less skilled occupation – and often travelling far to do that work.
“We first met in the Treorchy Boys and Girls Club, with 60-odd people in attendance. We have found there is great enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve, and it feels like the time is right – it fits in with Welsh Government priorities, particularly in terms of providing local employment, the environment and retaining local skills.
“Our ambition is to see 30-50 people employed by the enterprise, and to start an apprenticeship programme. The factory had been such a huge provider of employment locally, back to the second World War, and we feel it is important to continue to pass on the skills of the workers to the next generation.”
Having met for the first time, Treorchy Sewing Enterprise was set up as a not-for-profit organisation with its workers as members of the board, which now meets once a week. Once the Council funding was secured, it was able to buy various equipment and install it at a room on the old factory site – and has now reached the stage where it is producing samples for potential customers.
The spokesperson continued: “Welsh Government have been excellent, as well as Rhondda Cynon Taf as a Local Authority. We made contact with RCT to share our vision, initially in an Internet meeting, which included Council officers and some of the buyers. We’re now producing samples for RCT, an independent care home in the Rhondda, and we also anticipate an order from Transport for Wales. It’s happening – work is coming our way – and we hope that these organisations have found what they are looking for in us.
“The biggest current challenge has been sourcing material. The nearest place we can currently get what we need is Portugal, and it takes 12 weeks – which is an issue because we don’t know what we need until the orders arrive. Ultimately, we want to get to a position where we could consider producing material in the Rhondda.
“The challenges continue to come for us – we find that you have a solution to one issue, and then another happens. But as I said previously what we’ve found is this fantastic enthusiasm from everyone involved in the group.
“At the moment there are nine people directly involved, who attend our Board meeting every Tuesday. We run as a co-operative, and we are also receiving invaluable advice from people in the locality who used to be employed by Polikoff or Burberry, who want to help us. We are very, very close to starting production, and hope to have five or six workers starting in the New Year.”
Councillor Robert Bevan, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: “I’m delighted that the Council has been able to support the Treorchy Sewing Enterprise through one of its Regeneration grants, which are available to help start-up organisations. Officers have also been able to provide various other forms of business support, including introducing the group to a Business Wales advisor.
“The former Polikoff and Burberry factory has played such an important role in the local area’s history, bringing a large source of employment and also fond memories for the significant number of people who worked there over the years. It’s clear to see that the Treorchy Sewing Enterprise understands that history, has retained that passion for local manufacturing in their community, and are determined in their goal to restart operations on the old factory site.
“I wish the group the very best of luck as it progresses towards a small team of workers restarting production in the New Year – utilising a pool of expertise which exists locally, and providing employment in walking distance for most workers. The Council will continue to provide support wherever it can.”
Find out more about the Treorchy Sewing Enterprise by visiting its website here
Posted on 02/12/2021