Aerospace manufacturing is a huge contributor to the economic make up of Burnley, a town steeped in manufacturing tradition. International aerospace manufacturers Aircelle are at the forefront of high tech manufacturing for the aerospace industry and are a great provider of jobs and wealth to the local and national economy.
Burnley has benefited well from all three rounds of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The government has awarded £1.8m to the redevelopment of the old Michelin site into a brand new state of the art Aerospace Supply Chain Park. The bid was put forward by a consortium headed up by Aircelle with the aim of creating a cluster of high tech aerospace companies in the Burnley area.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been very positive about the plans to acquire and develop the unused Michelin site. The area will encompass numerous high skilled, high tech engineering companies which will deliver product to the aerospace industry through the supply chain.
The supply chain park will be a major boost for Burnley worth nearly 1000 jobs and the fantastic thing is that companies won’t be closing down operations anywhere else to move here, this will be an extra base.
Most of the companies that will move to the site are part of Aircelle’s supply chain already and will be expanding their operations to open an extra manufacturing base in Burnley. These companies are currently based in various places around the UK and France and are major suppliers to Aircelle. Having them all on the same site next to the customer will dramatically improve the supply chain both in terms of logistics and costs, as well as make the process much more environmentally friendly as there will be less transporting.
It is hoped that manufacturers will be encouraged to fill some of the current gaps in the supply chain by opening a base in the supply chain park. The supply chain at present is very fractured, particularly in the aerospace industry and this could help to create a free flowing supply chain which will in turn create extra jobs in the UK. With this development Aircelle aim to encourage UK firms in their supply chain to manufacture products on site, helping to improve quality as well as being cost effective for all involved.
It really is an innovative idea to have such clusters not only for aerospace, but for many industries working closely together to create jobs and wealth in a particular area. Although it is a relatively small investment by the government, it is attracting major investment from the private sector and will create a large number of well paid high skilled jobs. This could easily be repeated in other areas across the country in a wide range of sectors including automotive and chemicals.
* Gordon Birtwistle is Member of Parliament for Burnley, Chair of Lib Dem Parliamentary Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills, co-founder of the Lib Dem Campaign for Manufacturing and and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships.