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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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£100m boost for Cumbria’s economy

North Cumbria is shaking off the shackles of recession with £100 million being ploughed into securing and strengthening a string of factory futures.

Ian Pipes photo
Ian Pipes, Nestle engineering manager

The massive shot of economic confidence in the county can be revealed today with a series of lucrative deals for firms that employ in excess of 2,000 people.

Nestle has ploughed £40m into the future of its Dalston drinks plant to take it to the cutting edge of technology in the beverage industry.

First Milk, meanwhile, says it is poised to spend at least another £15m at its market-leading Lake District Creamery in Aspatria – also recruiting another 100 farmer suppliers – after signing a landmark deal that executives say will bring big benefits.

Innovia has had it confirmed that its deal with the Bank of England to supply the material to make new plastic bank notes – triggering a £20m investment and creating 80 new jobs in Wigton – is to go ahead. The firm is also planning another £20m upgrade scheme.

Tyre giant Pirelli, meanwhile, has lodged plans to build another warehouse at its Carlisle complex, where it has been spending millions of pounds upgrading equipment.

Details of each of those investments have emerged just days after world-leading rally and racing business M-Sport revealed a plan to expand into the road car market and build a research and development centre unique to the UK at its Cumbrian headquarters. That would create 100 jobs.

And they come just weeks after BSW Timber announced it is taking on 30 more people at its mill on the outskirts of Carlisle.

City MP John Stevenson today hailed the news as signs of growing confidence in the area’s economy, adding: “The economy has turned a corner. Carlisle is well placed to benefit from the upturn and we’re starting to see a lot of investment.”

Nestle, which employs 330 people at Dalston, says its on-going investment programme since 2010 has hit £40m to ensure the factory’s future.

Manager Martin Scott insisted that the huge investment would benefit the community as a whole and said: “Being part of the Dalston community is important to Nestle. We are delighted to be able to help give back something to the community in which we are based.”

The site, which has been in the village since 1952, manufactures speciality coffees and hot chocolate.

Among the latest investments is £7m in a new air heater and a £13m project to streamline production. Engineering manager Ian Pipes said: “We want to be producing the best product at the best price and we are making the investments to make the savings.”

In Aspatria, First Milk says it’s poised to at least match the £15m it’s invested in its creamery over the past two years as details were announced of a supply chain deal that will see another company – Adams Foods – cut, pack and market 50,000 tonnes of hard cheese, including branded cheddars made in Cumbria.

A spokesman said: “It is still early days to put a final figure on how much investment will be made, but we would be looking at least at another £15m, if not more.

“We could be potentially looking at more jobs, but it is more about job security at the factory and for our farmers. This has all being driven by the partnership with Adams Foods.”

The new plant making plastic bank note material at Innovia, meanwhile, is on-course to open in 2016 after the Bank of England this week confirmed it has entered into an agreement with Innovia subsidiary Innovia Security to supply the base material for the UK’s new polymer banknotes. Innovia Group chief executive David Beeby said: “This decision not only recognises the benefits that polymer notes have to offer but also Innovia’s expertise in this field.”

The contract will run for just under 10 years, with an option for a three-year extension.

In Carlisle, Pirelli looks poised to add to the investment in its Dalston Road site, safeguarding 850 jobs.

It has applied to Carlisle City Council to extend its finishing department to provide additional space for tyre storage. A decision is expected by the end of May.

Elsewhere in the motor trade, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson says response to his expansion plans has been positive.

As well as the research centre, the development could include a top-class 60-bedroom hotel and 25 homes.

Mr Wilson said: “The aim is to position M-Sport as a centre of excellence and I believe that will offer additional inward investment opportunities with the potential to attract other businesses to the region.”

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