A council has agreed to spend £1.5m expanding and modernising its nursery as it seeks to boost income and attract inward investment.
At its cabinet meeting last month, Birmingham City Council agreed to borrow £1.506m to fund the refurbishment of Cofton Park Nursery. The facility produces bedding plants and displays for the local authority's parks, cemeteries, traffic islands and council buildings as well as external clients.
The nursery has produced award-winning displays such as Enlightenment, which won gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Flower Show Birmingham.
By modernising the facility, the council estimates it will save £43,400 per year - £20,000 in fuel costs alone. These savings plus an added £79,000 surplus created because the department makes a small profit on its running costs will pay back the loan at £102,400 per year over 25 years.
Other options rejected by the cabinet included running the nursery into the ground before closing it, a complete redevelopment and closing and selling the site.
Head of parks Darren Share said: "This shows the commitment the council is putting behind flowers at a time when there are lots of cuts. It is an area in which the city wants to be recognised. That's a massive vote of confidence in the team when it would've been far easier to say no."
Share said his department was able to show that it is cheaper to produce in-house than buy in, particularly as plants are often supplied to other council departments for less than the cost of production. Once the improvements are complete - in time for the 2015 growing season - the nursery could bring in £250,000 extra revenue a year by 2019, he added.
Cofton Park Nursery Improvement plans
The Cofton Park Nursery buildings, opened in 1970 and 1976, are expensive to maintain and repair. More than 60 per cent of the roof vents have failed in the past four years alone.
Thirteen separate glasshouses are connected by a walkway with open unused space in between, giving 3,560sq m and 1,338 sections for growing plants.
The new single-span building will increase the floor space to 4,815sq m allowing 2,110 growing sections compartmentalised by thermal screens.
Six new apprentices will be recruited as soon as possible with the aim of some or all working in the improved facility.