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Global business expert helping drive City Deal forward

HIS worldwide career as a global leader of a major car components manufacturer took James Davies from Llanelli to mainland Europe, Russia, the USA and Japan.

James Davies

But now that he’s back on home turf, Mr Davies, executive chairman of Industry Wales, is helping to support £1.3 billion plans to boost South West Wales’ economy as a member of the Swansea Bay City Deal’s economic strategy board.

Made up of private sector experts in fields like manufacturing, housing, finance, energy and life sciences, the economic strategy board gives specialist guidance to the City Deal’s decision-making joint committee.

Graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from Swansea University, Mr Davies joined the workplace in 1986 as a design engineer at Llanelli Radiators, which the Calsonic Group bought three years later.

During his 30-year career at the company, former Olchfa Comprehensive School pupil Mr Davies rose to become its Corporate Senior Vice-President. As well as reviewing the company’s business worldwide, he was also responsible for its global heat exchange division, which was worth about $2.5 billion a year.

After seven years first commuting to and then living in Tokyo, Mr Davies returned to the UK full-time in 2017 to take up his current role at Industry Wales – an arm’s length body of the Welsh Government representing the voice of the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

All these experiences, he says, mean he’s well-placed to help guide the City Deal.

Mr Davies said: “I have worked extensively in research and development, but also in the commercial field as well as running operations throughout Wales, the UK and the rest of the world. This involved huge amounts of work in partnership with other organisations, whether it was partnering with academia, working with governments or merger acquisitions and organically growing the company.

“These skills inevitably help with my role as an economic strategy board member because there are many partners involved in the delivery of the City Deal too, from local authorities and health boards to universities, the Welsh Government, the UK Government and the private sector.

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“Wherever you go in the world, employers have the same problem – a skills gap – so that’s why a number of enabling projects form part of the City Deal. These include major plans to boost our digital infrastructure across the region, as well as a skills and talent initiative that will offer pathways for local people to access the high-quality jobs being generated.

“Combined with City Deal projects that will be created, this will lead to attractive, inspiring employment that will help local people make best use of their skills in their own communities. In turn, this will then grow the regional economy, attract even further investment and jobs, and create communities we can all be proud of.”

Mr Davies also says Swansea Bay City Deal projects like Pembroke Dock Marine and Homes as Power Stations will build on Wales’ historic reputation for innovation.

He said: “We’re a country that’s successfully extracted and refined raw materials from our land for centuries. It’s part of our heritage and culture, but we’re now at a point where it should not be the only way forward.

“Whether it’s further developing our marine energy industry or constructing carbon neutral homes, some of the City Deal projects will ensure the next generation can use and re-use renewable energy sources like the sea, wind and sun, while also extracting from previously discarded resources like waste to ensure value can be re-created within our economy.

“The City Deal can make a significantly positive difference to the region where I’m from.

“With the economic strategy board’s role to shape and influence the programme, we can ensure a lasting legacy of quality of employment that is anchored and sustained within our communities. That’s what really excites me.”

Dad-of-two Mr Davies, who now lives in the Neath area, was brought up in Swansea.