By Martin Walker
A Newton Aycliffe conference centre built with the support of a local church has almost doubled its operational staff since opening just three years ago.
The Xcel Centre, a state-of-the-art venue built on Aycliffe Business Park three-and-a-half years ago, opened with 20 employees but now has 36 on the books.
The building was facilitated by the Xcel Church in Newton Aycliffe after outgrowing its premises in Woodham Village in the town.
Xcel wanted to create a new business which would be a resource centre for the region and also provide a base for the church – an innovational move which is now reaping rewards.
The centre is used for a number of high-profile conferences, including County Durham Oktoberfest, while Hitachi Rail Europe has used it for major events.
Centre manager Kerina Clark said: “Xcel church had outgrown their premises and a lot of churches commissioned new buildings and offered an events and conference facility as an add-on to help the sustainability of the new build.
“What Xcel did was to instead build a business centre primarily which could also be used for church activities outside of business hours.
“The vision was to have a centre which would be a resource to the local community, and that underlying ethos remains.
“Not just the business community and what we do in terms of events, but also the fact that all operating profits of the Xcel Centre are re-invested back into the local community through registered charity Cloud 9 and Xcel Local through a food bank.
“So there’s a lot more to us than just business. There’s a lot of fantastic work going on behind the scenes and long may that continue.”
Around 30 major events are held every year in the Xcel Centre’s impressive auditorium, which can host 500 dining guests and up to 1200 people for conferences, while its smaller conference rooms are also proving popular.
Kerina adds: “One of the key aims when we built it was to ensure maximum flexibility. It was imperative that we could be versatile and adapt to just about everything for potential clients.
“The Xcel Centre was purpose-built for events and that’s meant we’ve been able to tailor-make what we do in line with what our clients want and deliver what’s actually needed, often exceeding even the most demanding of expectations.”