Graduate returns to University with new business to help redevelop Wrexham campus
A PLUMBER turned entrepreneur has returned to the university where he trained to oversee the development of an innovative social learning project.
Phil Simmonds was a student at the former Aston College – now Wrexham Glyndwr University – in the late 1970s, before going on to co-found the award-winning Spatial Office Environments in Manchester.
Phil, 56, received a Higher National Certificate (HNC) from the college and went on to work in contract management at Wrexham council, but starting his own business was always the ultimate ambition. He did so successfully, and now employs 14 people out of the company’s Altrincham headquarters.
Living in Rossett with wife Ann and son Morgan, nine, he was “thrilled” to return to the Plas Coch campus with his team to transform an area of the University’s A corridor into a learning space complete with seating pods, interactive demonstration areas, display screens and removable desks.
Other features include partitions that will enable students to prepare for lectures and seminars, break-out areas and energy efficient modern lighting which will give the area a more relaxed feel.
“It’s fantastic to be back here and playing a part in the redevelopment of the campus,” said Phil.
“The site has changed a lot since my day and looks set to improve even further; this social learning space looks so different and will be a lot more relaxed and interactive for students.”
The facility was designed by DAY Architectural with the fit-out and furniture installation carried out by Spatial.
Phil’s other venture, The Simmonds Group, runs alongside Spatial and focuses on structural, mechanical and electrical works and industrial refurbishment; meaning he is almost a one stop-shop for all interior development requirements.
“We have two businesses that complement each other very well. We have a team of interior designers, space planners, and contract and project managers who can take on any project,” said Phil.
“Our main source of revenue is in office fit-outs; an area which has grown and grown since I first entered this industry in the late 1990s.”
“Things have certainly changed; from the open plan offices of old to hot desks and now collaboration zones - the way people operate is much more flexible and we’ve been lucky enough to be at the forefront of these advances.”
A rugby union coach in his spare time with Wrexham under-10s, where son Morgan also plays, Phil was a scrum half and centre with the club’s senior sides but now prefers to sail and take part in watersports along the North Wales coast.
His focus is also on the coastal region at a professional level. He has big plans on the horizon for both businesses following their prestigious victory in last year’s Mixology North Awards where they were named Furniture Provider of the Year.
“We are looking at widening our horizon and possibly expanding into Liverpool and North Wales, which obviously for me as a local boy would mean a lot,” said Phil.
“This is a great industry to be in and we have made huge strides; the benefit of it not being seasonal or held to the weather like other areas of construction is a big bonus and helped us take off.”
He added: “I look back on my time at the college with fondness and great pride as it played a major part in me getting to where I am today.”
“It’s strange to be back here now with my own company carrying out this work, but it makes me humble and very thankful as this is where it all began.”
For more, visit www.spatial.co.uk
Visit www.glyndwr.ac.uk for more information on the University’s Campus 2025 redevelopment programmeand upcoming open days.