Five major international companies have expressed interest in taking over the whole of the Ford Bridgend Engine Plant site, it has been revealed.
They are among 21 businesses who have expressed interest in the 1.2M sqft site when Ford end production there in September, said Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates after meeting the Ford Bridgend Task Force.
He confirmed £100,000 of public money will be invested in the local area and region to encourage enterprise among the 1,200 Ford workers who will lose their jobs but want to remain working, also boosting businesses in Bridgend town centre and assisting Porthcawl Resort to win more visitors.
The money will come equally from Welsh Government and the Cardiff Capital Region funds to enable Bridgend County Borough Council study three projects.
“So instead of relying on one major business we will spread the opportunities over a wider area and type of businesses,” said the Minister.
“The £100,000 investment is for feasibility studies only and we are ready and willing to put in more money where it is needed to help Bridgend and the region recover and develop with a more diverse economy after Ford go later this year.”
He added that since announcing its closure six months ago, Ford had “significantly improved” the level of legacy funding it intended to leave behind for projects and announcements about this will be made in coming weeks.
The Ford Bridgend Task Force has prepared an brochure for the site and since this was sent out to prospective investors 21 companies have expressed interest in all or part of it.
“We are still exploring if a single-occupant solution is viable for five who have indicated they want exclusive use and we are working our way through the details with them.”
The Minister said the Welsh Government’s Economic Development team was looking into each case but it also would enable them to highlight other places which may be more suitable than the massive Bridgend Engine Plant, so it’s creating opportunities over a wider area than Bridgend.
He highlighted the success of the £250M investment of Aston Martin at St Athan which has ramped up its employment expectations to 1,000 jobs from 700 and said TVR were hoping to begin production of a low carbon Griffith sports car in Blaenau Gwent in 2021 creating hundreds of jobs there as well over the decade as it planned to spend £100M.
Chairman of the Ford Task Force, Richard Parry-Jones, also heads the Welsh Automotive Forum for the supplier and manufacturing cluster in Wales and he said the result of their work confirmed the highly skilled workforce within Ford and its supply chain.
“We can confidently tell any incoming business which want to take over the plant that there is an abundant and highly skilled workforce ready to go and which is already trained to the highest levels they are likely to want.
“If more training is required in any particular skills, Wales can provide them with that knowledge and that gives us a big edge over other parts of the world.”
Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart attended the meeting and added that by UK and Welsh Governments working alongside a local council and with trade unions and a private company it was a refreshing approach to facing a challenging time and big impact such as the closure of the Ford Engine Plant.
He went on to say that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated how he wants the Government to help the regions of the UK and the work of the Task Force is a good example of how it can show Wales can incentivise investors and make it as attractive as possible to international businesses.