Nissan's Sunderland decision sparks flood of calls from potential investors

Tom Hurst (left), Sharon Hodgson and Paul Butler at today's NEAA reception

Tom Hurst (left), Sharon Hodgson and Paul Butler at today's NEAA reception

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Nissan's decision to build two new models on Wearside has sparked a wave of interest from other potential investors, a meeting at Parliament was told today.

Sunderland City Council chief investment officer Tom Hurst said the move had raised the profile of the entire North East as a place to do business.

The firm announced last month that the Sunderland plant was to build a third version of its best-selling Qashqai as well as a new model of the X-Trail.

Mr Hurst told a reception in the House of Commons' Churchill Room, hosted by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA): "We have never had, as a region, as many phone calls and enquiries ever who see the North East must be a great place to do business.

"The Nissan factor and the supply chain factor send out the message to other businesses that they should have a look at the North East.

"We are all working really hard to bring those jobs to Sunderland, the North East and the UK.

"We believe there are fantastic opportunities in the North East because of the investments Nissan and the supply chain have made.

"The workforce is the key thing and it's something we are all proud of."

NEAA chief executive Paul Butler told the meeting that the new International Advanced Manufacturing Park, being developed on land close to the A19, was an opportunity to bring even more supply chain jobs to the region.

"The challenge is to get suppliers that are currently outside the UK on to that facility and supplying Nissan," he said.

The vote to leave the EU had caused uncertainty for the industry, and it was important that Government negotiate a deal to leave which would allow firms as level a playing field as possible with the continent.

"Brexit IS going to be a challenge but we support the national stance that we want the Government to ensure we do have an effective and competitive platform where we can compete with our European counterparts," he said.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson hosted the reception to highlight the contribution the industry automotive industry makes to the region - and the wider nation.

She told the 100 guests that Nissan in Sunderland was 'one of the great success stories of our region and, indeed the country,' but the plant's supply chain was equally critical to the North East's economic success.

"When we have 28 tier-one suppliers in our region, they have their own success story," she said.

Launched in March 2015, the NEAA now boats more than 200 participant businesses and a number of working groups, bringing firms together to look at key areas such as 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.