The announcement this week by Jaguar Land Rover that they are to build a new engine plant on the i54 site near Wolverhampton is fantastic news.
The £355m investment will bring around 750 direct new jobs and many more in the supply chain and in the local economy as more wealth is brought into the area. That is hugely welcome in a city which suffers from high unemployment and which prides itself on its manufacturing traditions.
Yet the importance of this is not only about the jobs. It will also give new hope about Wolverhampton’s economic future and new belief that making things can form a greater part of what we do for a living in the future.
The debate about manufacturing in the UK is afflicted by a culture of “declinism” which is strong on blame for the past and short on confidence about the future. Of course we make less than we used to but we also still make more than we think. And Jaguar Land Rover is going from strength to strength.
With Indian owners, Tata, investing large sums of money and with an appetite for premium brand vehicles in emerging economies there is a confidence about JLR’s performance that is a marked contrast to the situation in the past. The company plans to introduce a number of new models and is determined to challenge the competition from premium brand German car companies.
That confidence and expansion is why they need the new engine plant. At present, JLR sources its engines from Ford – a legacy of the multiple changes in ownership over recent decades. Now the company will make its own next generation of engines here in Wolverhampton.
This important investment shows that “declinism” need not be the story of UK manufacturing. With the right owners, the right product and the right management and workforce UK manufacturing can succeed. The announcement is a credit to everyone at JLR and let us hope we can do even more of making things in the future.
Posted on 22 September 2011.