Factories plan for Corus jobless

Moves designed to give new jobs to Corus workers left redundant by the steel firm’s cutbacks are due to begin in earnest on Thursday.

Welsh Development Agency contractors will begin construction on a 38,800sq ft manufacturing unit at Newport.

It is the first phase of a £14.5m programme to create more than 600 jobs in south east Wales, which was among the worst worst hit areas by Corus’ announcement of 6,050 UK job losses.

The agency is aiming to build 215,000sq ft of manufacturing space to attract new employers in Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Ebbw Vale, Newport and Torfaen.

Using Welsh Assembly and European cash, it plans to regenerate the region after the bombshell from the Anglo-Dutch steel giant.

Llanwern’s legacy

It comes as WDA executive Graham Moore is appointed chief executive of Wales’ first Urban Regeneration Company – another initiative unveiled by the first minister in January in a £76m package.

The Newport URC will look to drive development opportunities in the city, which was hit by the winding down of Corus’ nearby Llanwern works with its 1,340 jobs.

Working with Newport City Council and the WDA, Mr Moore’s focus will be the development of key sites, for the private sector according to a statement issued jointly by the organisations.

The statement hinted those locations would feature “major projects” at the existing Corus works as well as the city’s riverside and town centre districts.

It did not indicate any discussions had been held with specific companies, however.

Thursday’s work is getting underway at the Queensway Meadows Industrial Park.

The URC will have £10m from the assembly’s fund and another £10m from the development agency to spend over the next three years.

Training measures

Since the steelmaker’s announcement in February of 2001, the development agency and the assembly have spearheaded a united regeneration effort under the Team Wales banner.

So far, that has involved quickly identifying re-training needs for a post-industrial economy.

Plans to woo employers with factory spaces, however, are a sign the team has acknowledged the importance of the tradition manufacturing sector.

The strategy follows January’s £76m regeneration package announcement from Rhodri Morgan.

It comprised £16m from the UK Government and European Union and £55m from Cardiff Bay, all announced in May 2001.

A passenger rail link between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff – closed 40 years ago – will re-open in 2004 in a £15m scheme using £7m from the Welsh Assembly.

Aid was also promised for communities at Shotton, Flintshire, and Bryngwyn near Swansea.

Team Wales

Team Wales will be hoping the latest initiative can pay off after criticism of its programmes’ progress so far.

In September, Cardiff University’s Regeneration Institute criticised all involved agencies for not working closely enough.

Its report – commissioned by the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Development Agency – concluded policy should be centred on life-long learning opportunities.

Newport URC chief Mr Moore has cut his teeth as the WDA’s Corus programme director for the last 12 months.

Born in the city, he helped Sir Terry Matthews win the Ryder Cup bid for the area.

“The URC will develop the policy and provide the strategic direction necessary to take the city forward,” he said.

“The first priority will be to formulate a business plan to bring together both the public and private sectors in partnership to agree an ambitious plan for Newport’s regeneration.”

Wales’ Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies added said the programme would create “attractive premises for new businesses which will kick start the economic regeneration of the area.”