Given that Nissan recently announced a £100 million investment into the its Sunderland Plant on the same day that Hitachi Rail opened its first UK Manufacturing Facility in Newton Aycliffe, it was no surprise that the theme of NEEF’s 2015 annual conference was about “celebrating the positive impact of Japanese investment in this area”.
Indeed it should be a celebration: Japanese companies make up 70% of engineering and manufacturing companies in the region and account for around 12% of all NE manufacturing jobs. Japanese Ambassador to the UK, Keichi Hayashi, spoke about the excellent track record the NE has in attracting Japanese investment and many of the other speakers and Government representatives via video link ups to Whitehall noted the immense difference that investment brought to the region not onlywith regards to job creation but to; R & D, a sharing of manufacturing expertise,the introduction of positive manufacturing practices across the whole supply chain, raising skill levels and providing a strong work ethic. I was also pleased to hear the “cultural and educational ties” mentioned-often forgotten but nevertheless important.
It is often said (and mostly proven) that Japanese investment represents a firm and long-term commitment and that certainly forms the foundation of the the relationship between the NE and Japan, that began back in 1862 when 12 Japanese Ambassadors on the Iwakura Mission visited Newcastle upon Tyne to find out about important manufacturing techniques of the time.
Long may it continue.