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North Wales leaders unite to target major investment for region

THE most influential leaders and decision makers in North Wales came together for a landmark conference that will see them unite to secure investment and bring economic growth to the region.

Driven by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board’s Growth Vision for North Wales, the cross-party meeting was chaired by Llyr Gruffydd AM at the OpTIC Centre in St Asaph.

Mr Gruffydd was joined by members of the Board including council leaders, MPs, Assembly members, the WLGA and representatives from the private sector and further and higher education.

Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, was also in attendance.

Gwynedd leader Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, vice-chairman of the North Wales Growth Bid, welcomed the joint political approach and said it was crucial the area is given the support it needs to create jobs, improve digital connectivity and transport, and boost the economy for years to come.

“We want to build on our world class assets in advanced manufacturing, energy and tourism to drive economic growth and build a higher wage economy than we have now,” said Cllr Siencyn.

“We have established unity and a very special partnership between the local authorities and are working together to develop and deliver a winning Bid. It’s a very good team laying the foundations on firm ground.”

He added: “Collectively, the projects identified are transformational – it is an exciting package of innovative projects and programmes.

“With your support in influencing colleagues in Cardiff and London – who of course want to see our economy thrive – we can take those next steps and bring about a Growth Deal that will benefit North Wales, as part of our wider vision for the region.”

Mr Gruffydd believes joining forces will put the six counties in an area of strength when attempting to attract investment over the border and secure strategic programmes to better infrastructure.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas – chairman of the Mersey-Dee North Wales All Party Parliamentary Group – was in agreement at Friday’s meeting, and says the Board and cross-party group must raise their voices to be heard in both capital cities.

“I welcome this meeting and feel we must communicate to them how effective the economy in this region has been,” said Mr Lucas.

“We have some of the world’s best companies here but we all accept we must change and improve to grow further, and we are all willing to do that as we have created an environment where we can come together and discuss the issues facing North Wales.

“Our time has come, and we must now see a return on the hard work that’s taken place here over the years.”

Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane said North Wales must be at the “top table” and build on its strengths, points reflected in the selection of the eight programmes forming the Growth Bid – Land and Property Development; Smart Access to Energy; Smart Technology and Innovation Hubs; Regional Growth Business Fund; Pathways to Skills and Employment; Skills Centres of Excellence; Digital Connectivity, and Strategic Transport.

Mr Skates congratulated the group for coming together as one united voice for North Wales, and urged the Board and members to continue garnering public and private sector support.

“The Growth Deal must be transformational in approach so we have the right infrastructure to drive economic growth,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time, and while there is a huge challenge ahead in Brexit, collaboration in North Wales puts us in a very good place.”

Cllr Siencyn added: “A lot of work has taken place to get the Ambition Board to this position, and we now target extra powers and resources for the north.

“We have a much stronger voice, not just for the Growth Deal but in terms of innovation and in influencing funds currently lying with the UK and Welsh Governments, working as a united region.

“The projects and programmes in place are transformational, leading to good quality jobs that will shorten the gap between the GDP of North Wales and other areas of the UK – now we must all push forward together with both governments to change the landscape of North Wales for generations to come.”