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Grounds for optimism over Rotherham economy

posted 27 Jul 2010, 02:54 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 27 Jul 2010, 03:43 ]
One of Yorkshire & Humber’s top areas for investment, jobless claimant numbers falling faster than the rest of the UK, and business inquiries rising – Rotherham’s economy is prompting cautious optimism.

Photo right: Sandvik Medical's new Centre of Excellence at Beighton Link, Rotherham
 
“Amid the tough times as the country comes out of recession – and we as a council are not immune – there are some grounds for optimism,” said the Metropolitan Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Transportation, Cllr Gerald Smith.

Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward’s 2009-10 figures on inward investment show that South Yorkshire is by far the most popular location. It attracted 43 per cent of the total business investments, ahead of West Yorkshire (which includes Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield), on 33 per cent, the Humber (23 per cent) and North Yorkshire (9 per cent).

And Rotherham is a significant player, both in the scale of investment and the importance of the companies. Apart from UK companies choosing to operate from the borough, it has some 100 overseas companies from around the globe.

Investments range from £25m for Rolls-Royce, to build its Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the Yorkshire Forward-UK Coal Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), to Swedish-owned Sandvik Medical’s £7.5m on developing its European Centre of Excellence in the Rotherham section of Beighton. Rolls-Royce is also set to create a civil nuclear manufacturing plant in South Yorkshire.

In a round-up of other investment, Rotherham business news website Rothbiz reports on how Dutch-owned Pegler chose Manvers for a £7m warehouse and Elite Tooling was acquired by Tivoly, France’s largest cutting-tools manufacturer and the third largest in Europe.

Other recently announced investments include Boccard UK, a French company in the nuclear energy and construction sectors making Rotherham the base for its northern division and hi-tech French company TEKS, choosing the AMP for its UK HQ.

To the inward investment results can be added existing Rotherham companies’ successes in winning business worldwide. Together, these may help account for fewer people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in the borough.

June saw a drop of 538 from May, to 7,498, or 4.8 per cent. That is the lowest since January 2009 and the fifth fall in the first six months of the year. Rotherham’s rate is above the regional 4.4 and national 3.8, but the rate of decline is sharper than both.

Meantime, latest figures from the council’s regeneration arm, Rotherham Investment & Development Office, show an increase in business inquiries and demand for space. June’s inquiries rose to 53, 16 more than in May, 19 more than the same month in recession-hit 2009 and even seven up on 2008.

RiDO’s business development manager, Tim O’Connell, said: “We’re seeing progress and investment everywhere from business parks to town centre, where retailers are seeing the opportunities. We’re also helping people set up their own companies, including in our purpose-built business centres.”

Region-wide, a record 147 overseas investors chose Yorkshire & Humber in the last 12 months, creating or safeguarding more than 3,000 jobs and attracting £165m-plus of private-sector investment.

Yorkshire Forward’s assistant director of business, Theresa Lindsay, said: “Yorkshire and Humber has continued to attract national and international major investments from world-class industry names, with the highest rates of investment into the region in the last decade.”