Andrew Robathan

Netalogue managing director Andrew Robathan

IT firms flock to Neath Port Talbot

The Welsh borough is proving a real hotspot for innovative tech businesses looking to grow.

An increasing number of IT companies are choosing to put down roots in Neath Port Talbot - attracted by the area's good transport links, access to academic institutions, and its lifestyle benefits.

Among the growing IT cluster is Port Talbot based e-commerce software specialist Netalogue Plc.

One of a small group of Plcs with headquarters in Wales, Netalogue's business to business (B2B) e-commerce platform forms the backbone of online trading for countless leading manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers across the UK.

For Netalogue, which was formed in 2001 by three local IT graduates, Neath Port Talbot's various attributes are influencing factors in its ability to attract and retain the calibre of staff the fast-moving technology industry requires.

The majority of the company's 22 employees at its headquarters at Baglan Bay Innovation Centre live within a few miles, and as an R&D centric business, it relies on good access to the latest innovation and support.

Managing director Andrew Robathan said: "While we are a relatively small niche solution provider, behind the scenes we play a critical role in the operation of much larger businesses. More than £1bn of sales is processed by companies using our software each month."

Another growing IT business to make the area its home is pioneering technology company Vizolution, which as a SaaS (software as a service) business works with clients worldwide in the banking, insurance, and telecommunications sectors as well as utility companies and government departments.

Vizolution's initial start-up premises were at the Technium in Baglan Energy Park, now known as Baglan Bay Innovation Centre. When the company expanded, such was its positive experience of the area; it chose to retain its core presence in Neath Port Talbot.

The company has since witnessed 100% year-on-year expansion and has established offices in London, Bristol, and Canada. However, its main base - and home to a 70+ strong technical team - is the Bay Studios Business Park in Crymlyn Burrows.

Huw Rees, CTO, said: "It is an advantage to have a cluster of companies in one sector, as potential employees are far more reluctant to relocate to an area where there is a single dominant employer needing their skills.

"We are not planning on going anywhere, but employees feel more comfortable knowing that they have options and a developing skills base."

The latest business to become part of Neath Port Talbot's growing IT group is Keytree Ltd., who has partnerships with SAP and Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

An award-winning international design and technology organisation, Keytree Ltd. offer specialist enterprise solutions and software development across a wide range of technology sectors.

Formed in London in 2006, the company has swiftly expanded, opening offices in Australia and Spain, and in June 2017 opened its office at Baglan Energy Park in Port Talbot.

In due course, Keytree plans to open offices in the Middle East, China, and the USA.

The company believes that as a location for business, Neath Port Talbot ticks all the right boxes.

Managing director Tim Kyle added: “There is great support from the local authority, a great pool of graduate level talent that businesses can tap into, excellent facilities to live and work in the area, great schools and social activities with excellent access to other parts of Wales and the UK.

“We believe that there is a sea-change in the region – and not just because of the Swansea Bay initiative."

The businesses also praised Neath Port Talbot Council's Business team which has helped support their moves to the borough.

Robathan said: "I don't think we'd get the same support elsewhere, the Neath Port Talbot Council Business team take a more personal approach to assisting the growth of SMEs.

"We are always on their radar, and they are constantly scoping opportunities for us - such as specialist training - which will help our business grow."

It is a view also shared by Huw Rees of Vizolution. He added: “The level and quality of support for businesses in the NPT area means that we can focus on our core activity – growing a world-class software company.

"The support from Neath Port Talbot Council Business team has been excellent, most notably they have given invaluable advice on premises and growth financing. They have been superb at introducing us to local suppliers, and provided other local knowledge which has fast-tracked our success."

Cllr Annette Wingrave, cabinet member for regeneration and sustainable development said: “We’re delighted that businesses have chosen to put down roots in Neath Port Talbot.

“As a local authority we aim to create an environment where new businesses can establish themselves and existing businesses can grow.

“With the support the council and our business support services we hope that many more will be tempted by the opportunities we have to offer.”