Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson hosted the reception, on behalf of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), to highlight the significant contribution the automotive industry makes to the region – and the wider nation.
Speaking at the event, Sharon Hodgson, said: “It is wonderful to see so many people together in one room showing their support for the North East’s Automotive Industry. It is one of the greatest successes of our region, and also the country as a whole.
“Just one month after celebrating 30 years of manufacturing in Sunderland, Nissan gave us all the amazing news when they decided that the new generation of Qashqai and X-Trail SUV would be built at the Sunderland plant in the coming years.
“The day the news broke was one of my most memorable days as a Member of Parliament, as I stood outside the plant talking to the media about the wonderful news.
“This news reaffirmed the fantastic work of the workforce and management at the factory, but also the workforce within the supply chain.”
The event offered an opportunity to highlight the challenges and opportunities the sector faces and showcase how the industry has taken a collaborative approach to these through the automotive cluster group, NEAA.
Sunderland City Council chief investment officer Tom Hurst said at the event: “The region has never had as many investment enquiries from those who see the North East as a great place to do business.
“The business case for automotive investment has never been so compelling. The sector is set to hit record production levels in the next few years, we also know there is a £6billion tier 1 and tier 2 supply chain opportunity and a desire from companies to source from within the UK. The Nissan factor sends out the message that they should have a look at the North East.”
Hurst continued “We have the land, the infrastructure and the skills to deliver those investments. We are all working really hard to bring those jobs to Sunderland, the North East and the UK.”
Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance then highlighted how industry was clustering for competitive advantage to maximise the growth potential of the regions automotive sector.
Launched in March 2015 the NEAA was set up to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the North East automotive sector.
Today the industry-led cluster boasts over 200 cluster participants and has successfully created a number of thematic working groups where local automotive industrialists collaborate on issues that have an impact on their sector including Business Competitiveness, Skills, Innovation & Technology and Trade & Investment. Where possible the NEAA works closely with national activities addressing similar issues to ensure there is a collaborative and more effective approach to these.
Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA further commented: “The NEAA is very much industry-driven, with all our working groups populated by industrialists who work together to address common constraints and share best practice in order to improve regional performance.
“The NEAA is helping to drive growth and this event was about reminding decision-makers in Westminster how important the North East’s automotive sector is to UK plc.”
Butler finished by saying: “The region has a fantastic opportunity to grow its automotive sector, we must build upon the cohesive network of the alliance and with key stakeholders build an eco-system that provides world-class infrastructure, stimulates innovation, improves productivity and anchors and attracts investment in order to maximise growth. If we can achieve this we will not just support but deliver the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the North East automotive sector.”