This week I hosted a reception in Parliament for the Plymouth Manufacturing Group, who were celebrating their 40thanniversary. This is a group that includes the many manufacturing companies we have in our city, from the giants of Babcock and Princess Yachts who employ thousands to the smaller businesses dotted throughout Estover, Langage and Southway who typically employ 50 to 400 people. You would be amazed at how many successful engineering firms we have tucked away in our region, producing component parts for other businesses.
The PMG was set up in 1977 to encourage business leaders in the city to share best practice and help each other to succeed, an excellent initiative. Twelve per cent of the local working population work in manufacturing, well above the national average. This means we have a more vibrant manufacturing sector that anywhere south of the midlands. These jobs tend to pay more than jobs in other sectors. It is good to celebrate this susses which we all too often overlook. Unemployment in my consistency is at 1%, which really means full employment.
All of the firms represented this week report that they are busy. One of their challenges is recruiting sufficient people with either the right skills or the right aptitude to learn. Most of the firms are investing heavily in apprentices.
Although we were celebrating success, there was no complacency. The challenges of Brexit were uppermost in many minds. Uncertainty is the enemy of business, and we all know that there is some way to go yet before a sensible deal is finalised.
The other main challenge which we discussed at length was our transport infrastructure. It is important to keep making improvements to this network to help these firms thrive and provide so many pay packets. To work on tunnelling alongside Stonehenge to enable the A303 to be dualled from the M3 to Taunton was seen as crucial to give our peninsula a second major arterial road system. Work on this is underway. The massive engineering solution at Dawlish was also critical and once network rail have submitted their final proposals to government this will be started, hopefully early in 2019.
All three local MPs were present and we are all committed to improving our transport infrastructure. I can think of no higher priority. Well done PMG – here’s to the next 40 years!