News that the Welsh Government has backed plans to create an £80 million investment zone in North East Wales has been hailed as a “gamechanger” for the area’s economy.
The announcement was made by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething in the Senedd after the idea attracted cross party support from leading Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru politicians.
Mr Gething said: “It’s important to note that the UK Government will still need to make a decision on the support it will provide for investment zones for Wales ahead of or as part of the Autumn Statement process.
“However, I can confirm the Welsh Government Cabinet has met to discuss the proposals that have been in development.
“As a result I have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Department following our constructive engagement to indicate our willingness to use devolved levers and expertise to support two investment zones in Wales.
“Our preference is for one Investment Zone in South East Wales and one in North East Wales covering Flintshire and Wrexham.
“This reflects the specific sectoral strengths and existing clusters in each region, in particular compound semi-conductors in Newport with a link to Cardiff University and the wider South East of Wales and high value advanced manufacturing in North East Wales.
“These sectors in themselves will be integral to the path to stronger economic growth in Wales and the UK as a whole.
“We want to see more private sector investment in high quality jobs, skills and productivity.”
The drive to create an Investment Zone for Wrexham and Flintshire is being spearheaded by a new consortium who say it would help “leverage and secure” an additional £1.7 billion of investment and help create thousands of new jobs.
The group includes Moneypenny, JCB, Airbus, Net World Sports, Theatr Clwyd, North Wales Business Council, Wrexham and Flintshire councils, Wrexham University and AMRC Cymru, and is chaired by Joanna Swash, Chair and Group CEO of Wrexham-based outsourced communications provider Moneypenny.
Further momentum was added recently when six of the region’s MSs – Sam Rowlands, Ken Skates, Llyr Gruffydd, Mark Isherwood, Carolyn Thomas and Jack Sargeant – signed a joint letter of support to Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething MS and the UK government’s Levelling Up Minister, Michael Gove MP.
There was also support from the business community with more than 100 people attending an engagement event at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.
Campaigners say North East Wales is ideally placed to make the most of being an Investment Zone, as it’s already a manufacturing powerhouse with a growing reputation in the creative and digital industries, while the docuseries about Wrexham AFC was attracting international attention.
Investment Zones already exist in parts of England where £80 million in funding for each Zone will be used over five years for innovation, infrastructure and skills and training projects in the sectors being targeted.
Joanna Swash said: “This is brilliant news because the Welsh Government’s support is essential to make this happen in collaboration with the UK Government.
“An Investment Zone has the potential turbocharge the economy of North East Wales. It would be an absolute gamechanger for us.
“We want to see a Zone focused on advanced manufacturing and creative and digital sectors to secure existing jobs and support those businesses to grow and develop further, potentially creating thousands of new jobs.
“After the initial five years, it would also be creating a long-term legacy thanks to funding from business rates growth.
“That would generate additional income over the next quarter of a century which would provide unparalleled certainly for locally-based companies.
Ashley Rogers, the Chief Executive of the North Wales Business Council, added: “Among the ideas we have is the creation of pop-up factories which would be a ground-breaking world first.
“It would enable businesses to rent a production line for 12 months so that they can launch their products, going from concept and prototype, to starting production – de-risking the investment and saving capital in the process.
“In Creative and Digital we could focus on top of the line, fibre connected net zero business premises for start ups and grow on space for existing businesses in our town and city centres.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the support we’ve had from the business community and I am sure that the fact that everybody in Wrexham and Flintshire has been speaking with one voice has made a huge difference.
“As well as our public sector partners, the big hitters backing the idea include Airbus, JCB, Net World Sports, Moneypenny and Theatr Clwyd.
“As far as we are concerned, setting up an Investment Zone in Wrexham and Flintshire is an absolute no-brainer and we are hugely grateful to the Welsh Government for their backing.”