MP Phil Wilson visiting Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe plant
An MP who helped bring train manufacturing back to the North East says the biggest town in his constituency is finally “punching its weight."
Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield, successfully campaigned to bring Hitachi Rail Europe to Aycliffe Business Park in Newton Aycliffe.
And as the Japanese firm celebrates the second anniversary of the opening of its £82m factory, after it was opened by then Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2015, Wilson says Hitachi and other major employers in the town are helping it to achieve its potential.
Spread across 400 hectares, and with future expansion plans, Aycliffe Business Park is already home to around 500 companies employing an estimated 10-12,000 people – it’s the largest single employment area in County Durham and thought to be the biggest in the North-East.
Wilson is one of four keynote speakers who are due to headline an event to celebrate the relaunch of Aycliffe Business Park Community (ABPC) at the Xcel Centre on Friday.
He’ll be joined by Crafter’s Companion founder Sara Davies, Ebac chairman John Elliott and training expert Lee Childs during the celebration seminar, sponsored by IT firm Cornerstone Business Solutions.
Wilson said: “In the last five years we’ve not only seen the arrival of Hitachi, but we’ve also followed the rapid expansion of Gestamp Tallent – our biggest employer – and we’ve seen the region’s first University Technical College (UTC) built here.
“We’ve also seen Husqvarna celebrate the production of its one millionth robotic lawnmower; we’ve seen washing machine manufacturing return to the UK for the first time in years, thanks to John Elliott’s vision at Ebac, and we’ve seen shower manufacturer Roman named as one of Europe’s top 1,000 fastest-growing companies, as well as being recognised with the Queens Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
“While it’s fantastic to see our bigger businesses thrive, it’s also hugely important that our small firms do, too. SMEs are the backbone of our economy, employing thousands of people between them. We need to promote the park for their benefit, so they can grow and prosper, and create more jobs and wealth for local people.
“We also know about the whole skills agenda at the moment, and here in Aycliffe we not only have the UTC, but we also have South West Durham Training which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, as well as lots of other training providers who are helping to nurture our future workforce – work which is so important for our future prosperity.
“I sometimes think Newton Aycliffe has punched below its weight in the past, but we’re now seeing it punch its weight. It’s the biggest business park in the North-East and is a true economic powerhouse for the region.”