THE Welsh Government has kick-started its plans for a £100 million Automotive Technology Park in Ebbw Vale with funding for a 50,000 sq ft industrial building in the town’s Enterprise Zone.
Three months after the £433 million Circuit of Wales project was given a third rebuttal by the Welsh Government after asking them to underwrite it, this time by more than £200m, economy secretary Ken Skates is starting the process of delivering an alternative vision of economic regeneration for the town.
The saga of the Circuit of Wales – six years in the pipeline – was protracted, and the ultimate refusal of backing from Cardiff Bay, was greeted with dismay, anger and resignation in Blaenau Gwent.
Mr Skates announced the Automotive Technology Park proposal on the same day in late June that he announced the refusal of the Circuit of Wales investment bid.
Today, he will visit Ebbw Vale to meet apprentices and speak to the Enterprise Zone board and others about his plans and vision for the area.
The £100m investment for the park will be made over 10 years.
Mr Skates believes it could create up to 1,500 new full time jobs in one of Wales’ most deprived areas.
“I am keen to progress our plans for a £100m technology park as quickly as possible in order to secure high quality jobs and investment in Ebbw Vale and stimulate economic growth across the Heads of the Valleys,” said Mr Skates, who confirmed the funding for the Rhyd Y Blew building to “kick-start” the process.
“We have had a significant number of inquiries from automotive companies looking to move to Ebbw Vale. I am confident that the development of this new facility will help us to start to meet demand in the market.”
He added: “There’s no doubt we are at a pivotal time for the automotive industry. I want the technology park to become renowned as a centre for the development and application of next generation technologies for intelligent transportation.
“This needs to be a project that can have an impact in both the near and the long term. We need to retain our focus on the here and now, which also means focussing on jobs on the ground and the petrol engines that will be with us for some time to come, but it needs to built in a way that can capitalise on rapid changes happening in the automotive industry.
“We need to be clever and collaborative to make the technology park a success which means leveraging in funding from private and public sectors, working constructively with our partners, and investing in local skills.”
Of meeting apprentices working and training in and around Ebbw Vale, Mr Skates added: “Their skills, and the skills of others like them across the Heads of the Valleys will be key to the success of this technology park.
“We owe it to them and the region more widely to make it a success.”
Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone board chairman Mark Langshaw said it will work with the Welsh Government to ensure the project “delivers for the people of Blaenau Gwent and beyond.”