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Black Country LEP unveils £120m growth plan to create 6,000 manufacturing jobs

Black Country LEP unveils £120m growth plan to create 6,000 manufacturing jobs

🕔05.Feb 2014

A radical growth plan to create thousands of jobs and overturn years of industrial stagnation in the Black Country has been unveiled.

Almost 6,000 new manufacturing jobs will be created in in four years alongside £120 million of private sector investment under a City Deal between councils and the Government.

Launching details of the agreement, the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership said it intended to “open up a portfolio of sites” for job creation across Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

It’s proposed to set up a £30 million investment fund to help unlock key development sites, many of them currently mothballed by pollution from decades of dirty industrial use.

The fund will be created with £20 million from the Public Works Loan Board and an investment of £10 million from the four Black Country Local Authorities.

A vision for growth strategy document explains how the fund will allow difficult to develop sites to come on to the market: “The long industrial history of the Black Country has left the region with a large number of brownfield sites, often with excellent connections to transport links but with extensive abnormal and complex ground conditions due to previous use.

“These conditions, coupled with risk-averse private landowners, have led to a shortage of sites available for new or expanding high value manufacturers.

To address this, the Black Country LEP will create the investment fund which will enable the LEP to stimulate the local commercial land market through the provision of finance to developers of key sites.

“An initial portfolio of sites for the first two years of the investment fund’s operation has been identified and Black Country local authorities have identified a further 30 sites which could be brought into productive manufacturing use over the duration of the fund.”

The document continues: “The City Deal will build on the long history and high performance of Black Country manufacturing and support the growth of high value manufacturing (HVM), particularly in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

“The Black Country LEP area already represents the largest concentration of high value manufacturing jobs in England and, through international recognition of this strength and local leadership, has secured key inward investments which will create opportunities for local businesses to grow.

“The flagship proposal for this City Deal will support this growth and further investment by opening up a portfolio of manufacturing sites across the Black Country. When developed these sites will provide HVM companies with the high quality, flexible space required to innovate and expand their production.

“This proposal is supported by programmes to increase the number of young people taking up careers in HVM, to test new ways of reducing unemployment and welfare dependency in key areas of deprivation and improve the support that Black Country businesses receive.”

Over its lifetime the Black Country LEP predicts the City Deal will deliver:

  • 80 hectares of brownfield land brought into manufacturing use within four years, with a further thirty sites for future development over ten years.
  • The creation of 5,800 new manufacturing jobs within the first four years of the City Deal.
  • An estimated £120 million of private sector investment in high value manufacturing sites in the Black Country.
  • At least 1,500 additional high value manufacturing apprenticeships and an investment of £18 million from HVM employers in apprenticeships.
  • The realisation of up to £13 million of private sector investment in business support in the Black Country, creating or safeguarding up to 700 jobs.
  • Intensive working with 2,800 long term unemployed social housing tenants, aiming to move at least 900 into employment, reducing welfare benefit costs by £1.1million and increasing wages by £19 million.

Council leaders and the LEP expect that the City Deal will see the Black Country employment rate rise from 66 per cent, one of the lowest in the country, to 80 per cent.

It’s also claimed that the number of people with no qualification will have reduced to a par with the national average with 47,000 people benefiting from learning new skills.

The City Deal will deliver 63,000 new homes, 1,000 hectares of upgraded employment land, 880,000m2 new office floor space and 62,000 office, retail, and cultural jobs.

The document refers to “key economic challenges” after the Black Country lost 64,800 heavy manufacturing jobs between 1995 and 2008.The collapse of ‘dirty’ traditional industries has left many potential employment sites heavily polluted and unsuitable for high value advanced manufacturing.

It adds: “The Black Country needs to maximise the opportunities created by significant investments, such as those by Jaguar Land Rover and provide local businesses and new enterprises with the conditions to realise the potential for high value manufacturing growth.

“To do this the Black Country needs to deliver a supply of modern premises and accessible, clean well-located sites which are ready for immediate development.

“The City Deal will assist businesses to overcome these challenges and maximise their growth potential. It will also test new ways to reduce unemployment in local areas of deprivation.”

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