UP to 2,000 new jobs are set to be created in Sunderland after a £6.2million cash injection.
The money will go towards ensuring Wearside becomes an international leader in the development of low carbon vehicles.
The cash, which has come from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, is today being hailed as a major boost in Nissan’s development of the Leaf, which begins production at the Sunderland plant in 2013.
The award will also help enhance the new Test Track and Low Emission Vehicle Development Centre next to Nissan, support plans for the Turbine Business Park in Washington and help make sure local businesses in the “low carbon” supply chain can make the most of the new opportunities.
In total, 25,500 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be brought to the region as a result of the £93million package announced yesterday.
Dr Colin Herron, North East England Low Carbon Vehicle specialist, said: “A lot of the money is going to be spent in the Sunderland area.
“We are looking at about 2,000 jobs for the city.
“The region already has an outstanding automotive sector and this fund will enable us to nurture and grow talent in this new, emerging and exciting sector.”
Dr Herron added: “The biggest car plant in the country is going to start making 50,000 to 60,000 electric cars in early 2013 and we need the skills and the supply chain in place to take advantage of what could be a bonanza.
“We are not just building a car, we are building an economy.
“At the heart of this we are going to try and create 1,500 apprenticeships.”
Paul Woolston, Chair of the North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said the cash, also awarded to businesses across Sunderland and the North East, would play a major role in getting the region back on its feet.
He added: “This is fantastic news and I congratulate the successful bidders.
“The LEP will work with business and partners to maximise more of these opportunities in the region, and will look to attract further private and public investment to deliver economic growth and create new jobs.”
The £6.2million was awarded yesterday to Gateshead College and its partners who are helping train workers to develop the low carbon vehicle industry on Wearside.
A Nissan spokesman said: “Gateshead College have a proven track record in our industry and we fully support this ambitious project to enhance the low carbon vehicle sector in North East England.
“The 100 per cent electric Nissan Leaf and the new Battery Plant at Nissan Sunderland Plant are pointing the way to the future of the industry for our region.
“The new facilities will provide valuable new resources for all of us who are developing the automotive industry in the North East.”
Mick Brophy, managing director for business, innovation and development at Gateshead College, which runs the Test Track at Nissan, said: “As the preferred training provider for Nissan UK and Smith Electric Vehicles we have a proven track record of delivering effective training in this field and have recently opened our Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation (SASMI), in Washington, which is the UK’s first training centre dedicated to the clean technologies sector.
“We also run a Performance Track designed for low carbon vehicle development, testing and trialling.”
Sunderland firm Unipres, who make car parts for Nissan, are among the other businesses in the supply chain set to benefit from the grant.
Graham Baines, of Unipres, said: “We are very pleased about the news.
“It’s going to reaffirm our investment plans in terms of expansion that we are looking at.
“It should allow us to expand the facility and it will safeguard and create new jobs too.”
Calsonic Kansei in Sunderland and TRW Systems Ltd in Peterlee were among the other companies to be awarded cash.
MEP for North East England Fiona Hall described the news as “a real shot in the arm for the North East economy”.
She added: “More than 25,000 jobs, at companies right across the region, will be created or protected by today’s announcement.”