Business leaders have welcomed a £150 million funding boost for the manufacturing industry which will see four new Rolls-Royce factories built.
Up to 2,400 jobs will be created or safeguarded under the new Government initiative and experts say West Midlands-based production firms could be well-placed to benefit.
Engineering giant Rolls-Royce will receive £45 million in Government assistance towards investment of £300 million in four new UK manufacturing sites, including an additional facility at Barnoldswick, Lancashire, for the production of fan blades.
It did not disclose the locations for the new sites but said it planned new plants for turbine blades, discs used in fans, compressors and turbines and a new factory to make and test parts for new nuclear power stations.
Bridget Blow, president of Birmingham and Solihull Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “We only hope that some of the funding will come to this region.
“The announcement provides a strong signal to manufacturers about Government’s priority markets, sectors and investments which will help them to plan their growth. Innovative technology is vital to the success of our manufacturing plants.”
Simon Topman, chairman of the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce and managing director of manufacturing company Acme Whistles, said: “Acme Whistles has used the Manufacturing Advisory Service and, along with other companies, found it one of the best government initiatives. Any help which will enhance this service can only be to the good, especially as we start to look towards coming out of the recession.”
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the “significant” package of measures would help equip British manufacturers to take advantage of advanced technologies and new market opportunities shaping the UK’s low-carbon industrial future.
Business groups and unions welcomed the announcement although the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) complained that it lacked the long-term strategic direction it believed was vital for competitiveness of manufacturing.
Lord Mandelson said: “It is a complete myth that we do not make things in Britain any more. We are the sixth-biggest manufacturing economy in the world. Manufacturing is one of our biggest exports and it is growing but it will only grow if we keep ahead, using our science-based research. We are not going to find our future manufacturing success from the old style of factories and smoked stacked industries that generated our wealth in the past. It is going to come from small groups of people with brilliant ideas, who commercialise those ideas, applying new technologies.”
EEF policy director Steve Radley said: “If the Government is to put its activist ambitions into practice, it will need to replace the current scattergun approach with a clearer long-term framework.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The test of today’s strategy is whether it continues to create a significant number of skilled manufacturing jobs in the years ahead.”
Bernie Hamilton, national officer of Unite, said: “These announcements by Rolls-Royce and the Government are a ringing endorsement to the skills and abilities of the current and future UK aerospace workforce.
“This is a welcome investment for the UK manufacturing base including new sites for aerospace and civil nuclear which will secure and create jobs in communities badly hit by losses of employment in the UK manufacturing base and in other sectors of the UK economy.
“We would have liked to have seen all the investments Rolls-Royce has announced today made in the UK but the significant money for UK projects is nonetheless an excellent indicator to all of its UK employees that this country is still at the heart of the company.”