Accident repair specialists 1st Choice Accident Repair expect to create up to 20 new jobs as the business doubles in size having acquired new premises on Ipswich Road in Cardiff.
A £975,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales is being used to part-fund the move from Ipswich Road to a larger 30,204 sq ft unit on the same road that was previously occupied by Sytner. All 31 staff will transfer to the new site in May 2022 with up to 20 new jobs expected to be created across the business including the recruitment of paint and panelling technicians.
The extra space will allow for the expansion of services including wheel repairs, tyres, fleet maintenance and vehicle servicing alongside improved storage facilities. Opportunities to provide EV charging and battery storage are also being considered.
1st Choice Accident Repair Centre was established in 2002 as a purpose-built accident repair workshop. Directors Mike Summers, Calum Young and Sion Coughlin purchased the business just four years ago in 2018 after the Development Bank part-financed a management buy-out with a £1.1 million equity investment. Mervyn Ham of Iridium took an equity stake and the role of Chair.
The company is an approved repairer for most leading major insurance providers and offers comprehensive accident management, 24-hour recovery, claims management and courtesy vehicles. Complete warranty assurance is standard.
Director Mike Summers said: “Our long-term business strategy is based on adding value for our customers and shareholders so it’s important that we continue to invest in our property and processes to improve operational efficiency and expand our offering.
“As our equity partners, the Development Bank has continued to support us with our strategic growth while we have adapted to the challenges of owning a business and weathered the storm of Covid-19. With life now returning to normal and traffic getting back on our roads, we are seeing increasing demand for our services and have therefore been running at maximum capacity for some time. This move will give us the space to grow and develop a fantastic facility that will benefit customers and colleagues alike.”
Mervyn Ham said: “1st Choice is no longer just a car body repair shop. The team has done exceptionally well; coming up from the shop floor and grasping the opportunity to drive the business forward even through periods of uncertainty.
“This strategically important investment now allows us to take the business to the next stage; creating real flow and therefore improving efficiency together with giving us the space to expand our services and expand our portfolio of insurance providers. Importantly, we’ll have the facilities to provide first-rate training for our existing staff and new recruits so we can develop skills and take advantage of the growing electric vehicle market.”
Mark Halliday, of the Development Bank of Wales, added: “This is a great example of how we work with our equity portfolio customers to help drive growth and long-term value for all. The new site is nearly twice the size of the current workshop and offers a much better layout that will enable the business to increase through-put and efficiency.
“1st Choice is an excellent company that has delivered consistently against target; using our initial equity capital to create the headroom for expansion and deliver on their longer-term strategic plan. The team is doing really well by growing the business to its full potential and are now looking to the next phase of growth; creating jobs and diversifying to strengthen the business for the future.”
The £204 million Wales Business Fund is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government. Loans, mezzanine finance, and equity investments are available for deals between £50,000 and £2 million with terms ranging from one to seven years for small and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 250 employees) based in Wales, or willing to relocate to Wales.