The Birmingham Post today launches a major campaign to keep iconic tyre manufacturer Dunlop Motorsport in the city.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has joined the Post, the city council and MPs in the battle to save 300 jobs for Birmingham and keep the factory firmly in the West Midlands.
There are serious concerns that the parent company could move the operation to France or Spain and Dr Cable is now set to meet managers from Dunlop’s owners, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, to press the case for keeping the business in the region.
He has also ordered officials to meet with Dunlop managers and Birmingham City Council to try to resolve a log-jam over a potential site for a new factory in the region.
The move follows the intervention of city MP Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington), who raised concerns about the future of the business, which has been in Birmingham for 125 years , in the House of Commons.
It has also emerged that Birmingham City Council helped identify eight potential sites for a new facility in the city and surrounding area, including at the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston.
The authority is ready to back a bid for Government grant funding to help Dunlop Motorsport move sites.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, has sent a personal appeal to the chief executive of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in the US, pledging: “The city council is extremely keen to retain the Motorsport business and jobs within Birmingham.”
Birmingham Post editor Stacey Barnfield said: “Birmingham has the facilities, the skills and has already identified a site where Dunlop Motorsport can move to.
"This opportunity must not be allowed to slip through our fingers. Dunlop Motorsport has been in Birmingham for 125 years. Let’s keep it here.”
Dunlop Motorsport’s future in the city remains uncertain after the site of its existing factory, in Ashold Farm Road, Castle Bromwich, was bought by neighbouring Jaguar Land Rover .
The tyre-maker had been leasing the land from the Northern Ireland Local Government pension scheme, which owns it, but was told it had to get out by September.
The firm is now understood to be considering relocating to France or Spain, putting the 300 jobs in Birmingham in jeopardy.
But Birmingham City Council has been urging Dunlop Motorsport to move to a 20-hectare business park called the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston, which is owned by the authority.
A local development order is already in place there, which means planning permission would not be required. The council has also developed other options for Dunlop Motorsport to consider including:
• A 29 hectare site at the Hub, Witton, Aston, Birmingham
• A 30 hectare site at Prologis Park Midpoint, Minworth, Birmingham
• Signal Point, Battery Way, Tyseley, Birmingham
• Part of the former Rover site at Longbridge, Birmingham
• Citadel Logistics Centre, Bilston, Wolverhampton
• Amber Way, Halesowen, the Black Country
• Birch Coppice in Tamworth, Staffordshire.
Writing to Goodyear chief executive Rich Kramer, Birmingham council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “I am aware that you are currently considering the future of Goodyear Dunlop Motorsport in Birmingham, England. At the outset, can I stress Birmingham City Council’s commitment to working with you to keep the business and jobs within the city.
“We will work with you and provide support regarding any relocation options within the city that you may wish to explore and have already identified the significant opportunity that there is at the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston, which we remain committed to if that is the option that you choose to progress.”
However, Dunlop Motorsport said it had been told any potential grant from central government would have to be linked to creating new jobs, when it was hoping to preserve existing jobs rather than create new ones.
James Bailey, Dunlop Motorsport’s marketing and communications director, said: “At the moment, no decision has been made. We are evaluating all of the options.”
The business had been ready to commit to remaining in Birmingham on its existing site, he said.
“We didn’t expect to be in this position. We had made a long-term offer to stay on the site.”
He added: “We hope to be in a position that a decision can be made soon. All options are being considered. What I can’t do is talk about specific options at this stage, but Aston is one of them.
“We have been working very closely not only with the council but with private property companies in order to identify sites that could be suitable.”
Mr Dromey said the summit involving Vince Cable and Goodyear management would encourage the business to ensure Dunlop remains in the West Midlands.
He said: “I welcome the top-level action taken by Vince Cable to convene the Dunlop Summit.
“Queen Victoria was on the throne when the Dunlop Motorsport Factory first produced world-class tyres.
“For 125 years, Birmingham and highly-skilled Birmingham workers have served the company well.
“Now Dunlop Motorsport threatens to leave Birmingham despite the City Council moving mountains to identify no less than 12 alternative sites to relocate their factory to.
“It cannot be right that the Goodyear Dunlop Board 3,600 miles away in Ohio shuts down 125 years of history when they could move their Motorsport Factory but three miles. Dunlop must commit to Birmingham and Britain.”
Councillor Tahir Ali, Birmingham’s cabinet member for development, jobs and skills, said: “I want to see Dunlop stay here in Birmingham; both the city and Dunlop have a proud manufacturing history and we should continue to work together.
“We have worked really hard to find an alternative home for Dunlop and in July we told them that we had found suitable land at the advanced manufacturing hub in Aston that is immediately available.
“We are also exploring options in terms of grants that might be available. Unfortunately Dunlop has yet to commit to any proposals but I would welcome an announcement from them that Birmingham will remain their home.”
Gerard Coyne, West Midlands Regional Secretary of union Unite, said: “Unite members for generations have been proud of the role they have played in making Dunlop Motor Sport a brand internationally recognised for its quality and safety.
“Their skill and commitment to design and manufacturing excellence is the legacy that many products once proudly declared as, ‘Made in Birmingham’.
“The loss of Dunlop Motor Sport from Birmingham would be nothing short of a betrayal to the workforce who have contributed to make this a truly world class brand.
“With alternative sites available and the obvious benefit of being close to motorsport corridor with the advantages of product development the Goodyear board should now make a clear commitment to staying in the City, rather than keeping the workforce hanging in thin air.”