A thriving air conditioning and heat pump company has opened its doors on Skylon Park, Hereford Enterprise Zone, as it looks to develop its business which now operates across the UK.
West Mercia Air Conditioning chose the dynamic business park at Rotherwas after working closely with the Zone team and landowners Herefordshire Council on plans for a site which would accommodate the growing business.
Ben Corner, managing director of West Mercia Air Conditioning, said: “We wanted to build a space which was suitable for our needs and the Enterprise Zone is a good investment for us. Skylon Park is a great business park to be part of, better access, better roads and a better business environment.
“The new building is a more visitor-friendly. We do a lot of service and maintenance on really high-end apartments in London so if they want to come and visit, it’s great to show off not just our company but the thriving business landscape here.
Ben said the company’s previous offices were largely warehouses with some offices built into the space.
“As the business has grown, we are more service and maintenance than installation – we found we need to employ more people and in office space which we didn’t really have.”
Ben said the special development status of Hereford Enterprise Zone meant the whole process of building a new base from scratch was relatively quick and easy.
He said: “It’s been simple enough. We were applying for planning permission in May 2022, so you’re talking about just a year from planning to completion.
“We had planning permission that was free to apply for, which helps. We used Herefordshire developers Collins Design & Build throughout the whole process and it’s great to work with local partners where we can. They also have lots of experience working with the Enterprise Zone team so it’s been pretty painless for me.”
Charles Ingleby, Chairman of Hereford Enterprise Zone, said West Mercia Air Con was the latest of nearly 40 businesses to have chosen Skylon Park as a base for their operations.
“We’re looking forward to West Mercia Ar Con being part of the Skylon business community. Businesses currently face a number of challenges and it’s not always easy to prepare and plan for expansion. That’s what we are able to offer here – a supported and simplified process to invest and build – which makes the Zone an attractive proposition for any business with growth ambitions. ”
Councillor Graham Biggs, cabinet member for Economy and Growth at Herefordshire Council, said the Enterprise Zone was continuing to deliver on its promise to be a catalyst for growth.
“For more than a decade, Herefordshire Council has been supporting businesses to invest and grow at Skylon Park, creating sustainable jobs and developing a varied business landscape which boosts the county economy. It’s great to see West Mercia Air Conditioning join that roster of investors and we look forward to welcoming more growing companies on Skylon Park in the coming months.”
West Mercia Air Conditioning installs, services and maintains both traditional systems and air transfer heat pumps, which both cool and warm from the same unit.
The company supplies commercial, industrial and domestic systems, with heat pumps becoming ever more popular since they became zero rated for VAT.
Ben added: “We’ve seen an increase in customer demand for our products and not just air conditioning. Ventilation systems have become a growth area since Covid.
“We work nationwide. The installation side of the business is predominantly run from our Hereford branch and we have local engineers who travel anywhere in the country to install air conditioning.
“For our service and maintenance division, which is the biggest part of our business, we have a couple of engineers here in Herefordshire as well as all over the country.”
The company was set up in 1977 by Ben’s father Roy, who still works in the business three days a week at the age of 86.
Ben said: “My dad originally set up a company with colleague Bob Bray, who is sadly no longer with us, called West Midland Refrigeration, which was just refrigeration systems. Wales was a big market – he was selling lots of deep freezers, fridges and cold rooms.
“While he was doing that, he noticed he was picking up some inquiries about air conditioning and was doing more and more of that. Eventually they split businesses, amicably – Bob stayed with West Midlands Refrigeration and my father formed West Mercia Air Conditioning.
“In those days it wasn’t so much about comfort cooling, it was all about cooling server rooms.”
Ben joined the company when he was 18 and took over the running of it when he was 40. In that time, the business has grown from three employees to 43 and now trades across the UK.
West Mercia Air Conditioning joins a growing list of businesses to move onto Skylon Park, which is already home to 38 businesses. The park offers shovel-ready plots with all services and infrastructure in place, as well as ultrafast broadband across the park.