DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has heralded more than 350 jobs to top-off a fantastic week for Wearside.
The Lib Dem leader visited Unipres to announce £5million from the Regional Growth Fund to develop the firm’s Washington plant and create and protect 316 jobs – with a further 50 in the supply chain.
It comes days after Nissan announced it would build the new Invitation model in Sunderland, creating 400 jobs with a further 1,600 in the supply chain.
Aerial lift firm Snorkel also announced 50 posts at its Washington factory and Benfield revealed a £5million Ford dealership in Newcastle Road, creating at least 45 jobs.
Speaking during a tour of Unipres, Mr Clegg said: “This is a very exciting day, and an exciting day for me because Unipres are being given £5milllion from the Regional Growth Fund to expand its factory space.
“Because of the partnership between Unipres and the Government, 200 new jobs will be created in the local area and 100 jobs will be safe-guarded. So it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Unipres, which supplies parts to both Nissan and Honda, secured £41million of private sector and Government investment.
The firm will use the funding to accelerate production with the installation of a new 3,000-tonne press and robotic assembly equipment.
Mr Clegg, who visited the plant ahead of this weekend’s Lib Dem spring conference at The Sage Gateshead, said: “Creating jobs and growth is our number one priority for Britain right now.
“But it’s not enough just to get us back to where we were. There can be no forgotten areas of Britain. We need to rebalance the economy by supporting growth in every region and across a range of industries.”
Mr Clegg said there was huge potential for Sunderland and the region when it came to manufacture, engineering and low-carbon technologies such as offshore wind.
He said the Coalition Government would continue to use the Regional Growth Fund to spearhead growth in areas which would create long-term jobs.
He said: “It’s been great here today talking to young apprentices, and also some of the old boys who have been here 20-25 years and see how proud they are to see the company go from strength-to-strength.”
Graham Baines, finance director at Unipres, added: “This significant investment in plant expansion demonstrates Unipres Corporation’s ongoing commitment to the future of the UK operation and is testament to the hard work and dedication of all our employees.
“We greatly appreciate the assistance provided by the UK Government through the Regional Growth Fund and the support received from Sunderland City Council and our advisers, UNW, throughout the bidding process.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson welcomed the new jobs.
She said: “Any new jobs and training opportunities for the city is good news, so big congratulations are due to Unipres, as well as to Vantec, who also secured funding from the RGF to expand the warehousing it provides for Nissan.”