A Come-Back in Heavy Engineering

Mark Sandford - April 2012
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In recent days, the north-east of the United Kingdom has made the headlines for the right reasons and proves that traditional industries can still thrive even in the 21st Century given the right financial support. Steelmaking has now returned to Teesside after the former Corus plant was acquired by SSI UK. The blast furnaces were re-ignited in a symbolic ceremony and steel slabs will be coming off the production line in the coming weeks. More importantly the company has been able to re-employ most of the 1600 staff who lost jobs after the closure of the site two years ago. Initially the steel production at Redcar will be exported to Thailand but the firm has hopes that it could support the growing market for renewable energy in the UK. The new owners have had to invest a huge amount of money to get the plant back into operation, but at least the site is now generating an output than sitting there derelict.

Within the region, another company is set to create over 1000 new jobs after receiving a government grant of 640000. Offshore Group Newcastle builds steel jacketed foundations for wind farms at its purpose built facility in Wallsend. The concept has been developed and designed by its Aquind subsidiary. Construction of the prototype will commence this year. This also boosts employment in a region that desperately needs it. The North East has been blighted historically by high unemployment in recent decades and deserves recognition for the efforts being made to put the region back on its feet.

Anothher manufacturer has also succeeded in improving its future on the back of expanding sales both within the UK and abroad. JCB based in the West Midlands has announced a record turnover for 2011 of 2.75 billion. The firm will be taking on over 100 new apprentices which is another boost for jobs. More crucially, it is continuing a programme of investment in the UK and overseas to anchor its position versus foreign competition. The company is due to open a new factory in Sao Paulo, Brazil to manufacture excavators and backhoe loaders. New products will also be launched in the near future. This proves that British manufacturing can still win given the right backing over the medium term.

Over the last 12 months there has been huge debate across the country on how to achieve a higher rate of GDP growth and create more jobs. It is no good relying on consumer spending as a lever to boost employment. We do have to turn new ideas into products and services that other nations will wish to buy. And goovernment would be well advised to take this salient point on board as well.

(See www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-17734187)

Mark Sandford - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Mark Sandford, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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