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Our manufacturing capabilities are helping create a more successful UK economy

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04 May 2016

On 11th May, the LEP will proudly support the Manufactured Yorkshire conference in Leeds – a unique showcase of our region’s manufacturing strengths and the innovations that will propel growth in the next century.

The Leeds City Region’s strengths in financial and professional services are well understood. What’s less well known is that we’re the UK’s largest manufacturing centre. Why does this matter – especially when the latest growth figures offer stark evidence of the challenges UK manufacturing faces? It matters, because our manufacturing capabilities are helping create a fairer, more successful UK economy.

The Leeds City Region was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Famed local industrialist, Titus Salt, embodied the enterprising zeal of this age, helping lay the foundations of the original Northern Powerhouse. His success was borne from his willingness to innovate; whilst understanding the importance of a good quality of life for his workforce. A vision of good growth that remains relevant in a 21st Century Leeds City Region.

The days of mass industrialisation are gone but our region’s pioneering spirit lives on. My fellow LEP Board member, Eric Hawthorn, aptly chose Salts Mill as the manufacturing base for his telecommunications business, Radio Design. Components made in Saltaire are exported world-wide. Workshops that once produced wool for the world are now driving a global telecommunications revolution.

Today, Leeds City Region manufacturing contributes over £7billion to the UK economy, with double the national average of advanced manufacturing companies. It is home to global businesses: Borg Warner, Cummins Turbo Technologies, The Hinduja Group, and Elecon Engineering. The sector employs 142,000 – 11 per cent of jobs in our economy – increasing by 2,300 in the past five years. Huddersfield engineering firm, Reliance Precision, has even helped land a space probe on a comet. This is the modern Northern Powerhouse in action.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is committed to championing manufacturers. To date, we’ve provided grant investment worth £23 million supporting manufacturers to purchase new equipment, machinery and property needed for growth.

The symbols of our industrial heritage are being repurposed for the 21st Century. With a LEP grant of £26,500, brewers, Northern Monk, have transformed a derelict former industrial building in Holbeck into a thriving community asset, producing ales which they export to the US, and Europe.

Meanwhile, Halifax fan maker, Witt Group, have made a £1.3 million investment in a site three times bigger than their previous facility, thanks to a LEP loan. The company, which has been operating for 82 years, can now seek out new markets and produce larger products for new customers.

Fundamental to the continued success of the sector is our ability to maintain and develop a competitive skills base. Boosting productivity – a key challenge for our City Region – could be addressed partly through increases in skilled manufacturing jobs. To address this, the LEP has committed £800,000 to help 175 SME manufacturers invest in training and skills that will improve their growth prospects.

One company that seized this opportunity is Tockwith-based Stage One Creative Services, one of the UK’s leading creative construction and manufacturing organisations. It used an £18,000 LEP skills grant to improve efficiency through better management, enabling the company’s growth in the creative industries.

The LEP is clear that manufacturing is vital in creating future good growth in Leeds City Region. Clear, exciting career routes are essential for attracting the next generation to manufacturing. This is why the LEP is investing £3.1 million Growth Deal funding into Kirklees College’s Process Manufacturing Centre, matched by £2 million, including donations from local businesses. Opening later this year, this ground-breaking facility will welcome 440 apprentices to hone their craft on the latest industry equipment. Combining the expertise of industry professionals, with academic support, will provide the talent businesses need by equipping young people with the latest skills.

Industry is playing an increasing role in developing the technical skills of young people. Another welcome initiative is the engineering focused University Technical College (UTC), currently under construction in Leeds.

By investing in manufacturing, and the people who drive that enterprise now and in the future, we stay true to the concept of good growth and fuel the modern northern powerhouse – creating a stronger, more balanced UK economy.

Manufactured Yorkshire

Manufactured Yorkshire brings together up to 1,000 delegates from the food, drink, engineering, and textile sectors on May 11th at Elland Road Stadium. The LEP has organised two seminars: one on adding services to products and LEP supply chain support; the second on big data and manufacturing.