A major issue affecting Newtown in Montgomeryshire at present is the potential loss of 180 jobs at Shop Direct in Newtown. The loss of these jobs is a massive blow to the local economy, and an emotional break with Newtown's industrial heritage. The current call centre operation is an extension of the mail order business established on the same site (The Royal Welsh Warehouse) by Pryce Pryce-Jones in 1879. I refer to the job losses as 'potential' - because there is the usual statutory 90 day period before confirmation.
I know that there is much constructive discussion going on with the owners of this business, by the Assembly Government civil servants based in Newtown, the Town Mayor and others. No point in me replicating what they're doing. So I thought I'd meet a few businesses in the town to search out some alternative employment opportunities if the worst comes to the worst. This afternoon I met the Joint CEO of Laura Ashley Ltd at their hugely impressive Texplan unit in Newtown. We had a terrific hour, walking around Texplan and discussing issues where I may be able to help. I've been involved with Laura Ashley in one way or another for most of my life.
The great news for Newtown is that Laura Ashley Ltd are looking for around 20 new employees to train up as machinists. A training programme would be provided, and the opportunities are there now. Neither the company , nor I, would wish to interfere in efforts that are being made to save the Shop Direct jobs, or to find a buyer for the business. But its great to learn that there are other opportunities for employment in the town. Next week, I've arranged to meet some other businesses in Newtown. I suppose I am the perennial optimist and always think there's some way to improve bad situations - but only if I work at it.