A top politician has backed calls for Wrexham to be granted city status.
The message from Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, to local business leaders was: “Think like a city, act like a city and become a city.”
Mr Skates, who is also the AM for Clwyd South, was speaking at a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the Catrin Finch Centre at Wrexham Glyndwr University.
The group, that’s at the forefront of campaign to secure city status for Wrexham, is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.
The other keynote speaker at the event was Don Bircham, Managing Director of the Wrexham-based Hays Travel North West that’s expanded the number of shops to 35 and created more than 50 new jobs in less than a year.
According to Mr Skates, his decision to locate the headquarters of the Development Banks of Wales in Wrexham was a vote of confidence in the town.
The minister said the the work of Wrexham Business Professionals was crucial when deciding to invest in the town and that gaining city status was inevitable.
He said: “City regions grow faster economically and it’s easier for businesses to grow in that environment.
“I see Wrexham as being the economical capital of North Wales. Caernarfon might be the cultural capital but Wrexham’s strong economy and the business opportunities in the area make it the region’s leading economic area.
“We need to see ourselves as a city region. We should never underestimate the task ahead but we should endeavour to become a city region of that I am certain. If Wrexham continues to focus on growth then city status is inevitable.
“I’m proud of what the Welsh Government is doing to support economic growth in North Wales.
“We are investing well over £20m in a new Advanced Manufacturing and Research Institute that will increase Welsh GVA by as much as £4billion over 20 years.
“With the new HQ of the Development Bank now open in Wrexham, bringing with it 50 high quality jobs and a North Wales office for Transport for Wales opening next year, we are taking action to ensure that the employment benefits of Welsh Government investment are felt here in North Wales.
“Our Economic Action Plan is designed to build on this solid foundation. And the plan has been designed with a very clear purpose and that is to grow our economy; to support our businesses and to tackle the structural inequalities that hold Wales back.
Mr Skates also spoke at length on the challenge faced by Wales as preparations to exit the European Union continue.
He said: “Our priorities for Brexit have been clear. The Welsh Government has set out clearly the need to ensure that in leaving the political structures of the European Union we maintain full and unfettered access to the Single Market.
“We want to see the fair movement of people and to ensure Wales is compensated for the loss of needs-based EU structural and CAP funding.
“We need constitutional change to ensure we work together once EU legal frameworks cease to apply and we need to retain social, environment, employment and consumer protections.”
“But with the clock ticking there is still great uncertainty from the UK Government about what they want from Brexit. Indeed, many of the details of how they intend to implement it are also missing.
“This is obviously leading to increased speculation that the UK may leave the EU without securing a deal. We, as a Welsh Government, have always maintained that such an outcome would be disastrous for Wales.
“Here in North Wales, the home of so much of Wales’ manufacturing economy in the form of giants such as Airbus and Toyota, we know that better than anyone.”
Meanwhile, Don Bircham, who is also a shareholder of The Fat Boar Restaurant Group and former Wrexham Football Club Chief Executive, gave an amusing and riveting insight into his business interests.
When asked his views on whether Brexit will stop the people of North Wales travelling to Europe and whether he was concerned about a drop in business he replied: “No, not at all. We are resilient and people will still want to go to Spain, Italy, France Greece or wherever.
“And remember the Spanish and other European nations want us to visit and spend our Euros too. I have no concerns over Brexit in that sense. People will still travel whether they have to wait as while longer in passport or visa queues or face airline delays.
“My concern isn’t for the people who buy my holidays. My concern, when it comes to Brexit, is for the hard working people who work at Airbus, Vauxhalls, Toyota and other North Wales businesses. That is who I’m concerned about.”
Gill Kreft, chair of Wrexham Business Professionals thanked both Ken Skates AM and Don Bircham for their presentations.
She said: “I agree with Mr Skates that Wrexham needs to be seen as a city and ultimately must gain that status. He is absolutely right when he says city status brings business confidence and hence more prosperity.
“As businesses we need to work towards achieving our long-term goal of becoming a city region and generating the wealth that comes with it.
“It’s also encouraging to hear what the Welsh Government is doing to protect and help Welsh businesses as we move toward exiting the European Union.
“These are indeed worrying times and all businesses want clarity and the information we need to ensure business can continue seamlessly after Brexit so that jobs are protected.
“We were also very grateful to Don Bircham for his utterly fascinating and at times highly amusing talk.
“Hays Travel is a jewel in the crown of our local economy and it is brilliant news that the company is doing so well, creating employment and powering regional prosperity.
“It’s a company that really is going places.”