I have always felt that this country does not value manufacturing as much as it should. For decades, too much credence has been placed on the service economy and financial services like banking to try to carry us through. This was a mistake in my view. Sustainable economic growth, evenly distributed across the country is not just about economists' numbers like GDP or the value of invoices and formally paid wages. A manufacturer generates authentic wealth in a way that some service industries can't and don't. Manufacturers support whole supply chains of other businesses and that gives local areas resilience.
Cornwall has a strong historic record of mining and manufacturing excellence. At the peak of the tin mining era, Redruth was one of the wealthiest towns in the country and you can still see today in the beautiful Victorian architecture around the town the legacy of that wealth. In Camborne, Holmans developed into a world-beating engineering company exporting its technology around the world employing thousands. It was still a major employer when I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s. Often things go in cycles, and it is good to see some Cornish manufacturers like Teagles continue to lead the way with their technical excellence and export success.
It is because manufacturing should be valued more that I was pleased to see the Prime Minister recognise this with the announcement of a new Advanced Manufacturing Plan backed by £4.5 Billion, which will help secure long-term private investment into Britain, create thousands of highly skilled jobs and grow the economy. The plan includes new measures to support our growing manufacturing industry and will help unlock significant private investment.
The UK has recently overtaken France to become the world’s eighth-largest manufacturing economy and this plan will build on this progress, but I firmly believe that more needs to be done. Manufacturing success is the best way to spread economic benefits across the country including to places like Cornwall rather than allowing all the wealth to concentrate in the South East. Many of our manufacturers in Cornwall such as Teagle, Pall, Frame Homes and Pendennis employ apprentices to create well-paid technical careers for young people growing up in Cornwall today. It is important that we continue to support this and I want to see more funding going into vocational education offered by Cornwall College and other Further Education providers.
In recent months there have been a couple of setbacks for the economy locally. Firstly, the loss of Wilkinson in Redruth was a blow but fortunately, a new operator took over the site quickly. Secondly, in recent months the Keter Plant at Cardrew Industrial Estate decided to close its doors after many years in operation. It was part of the Curver Group and occupied the largest factory in Redruth on the site of the old Case International factory. I visited it some years ago. It was the place where all sorts of storage containers and bins were manufactured for sale across the UK and it had skilled and dedicated staff. It can be difficult for people when an employer they have been with for twenty years calls it a day, but it was good to see the local Redruth Job Centre really pull out the stops to help those affected get into new roles. People who know how to make things are in demand and will increasingly be what our economy needs and it's good to see a growing recognition of this.