All posts tagged 'Sheppey'

When an ill wind doesn't blow all bad...

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Monday, June 25 2012

It sounds pretty bad, coming on top of the Thamesteel crisis, but all is not lost for Sheppey and wind jobs despite the depressing withdrawal by Vestas.

Peel Ports, the owner of the proposed factory site at Sheerness - not Vestas - has the planning consent from Swale council. Although the Government might have called in the original proposal for a blade-making factory because of a listed building on the site, a refusal would have been unlikely in the face of such massive job creation - up to 2,000 - in a favoured sector.

The stage is now set for other firms to be encouraged by Peel, Locate in Kent,  Kent County Council, Swale council and MPs to consider investing in a manufacturing or assembly plant, or a mixture of both.

It is possible that a similar number of jobs could be created but don’t hold your breath. It could be a lot fewer than the Vestas plan.

While Vestas blamed market uncertainty which had stalled orders for the decision, there is probably more to it than that. The Government was about to unveil a new Energy strategy which might have addressed some concerns.

But the winds of financial, technical and structural difficulty blowing across one of Denmark’s biggest firms,  played a part. The manufacture of a prototype for the massive V164 blade that would have been built at Sheerness had been delayed. The firm had issued a profits warning, its share price had plummeted and bosses had been replaced. It was not a happy context for a big investment decision.

While middle managers proclaimed their support for the Sheerness project, and the company had invested a lot of kroner in working up plans, there is little doubt that new bosses and shareholders were nervous about such a huge investment in a potentially risky venture in Sheerness.

Vestas is not good at PR and had already suffered a bashing over its Isle of Wight plant. It has not properly promoted the fact that the factory was replaced by an R&D plant, and most casual observers think Vestas is no longer on the island.

Vestas has superb plants in Denmark and elsewhere, it is still a huge - and possibly the only - player in the one-stop shop wind turbine industry.

But it is a shame that their undoubted first-rank manufacturing performance will be overshadowed by a feeling that they led Locate inKent and Swale up the garden path, giving them false hope of a jobs bonanza.

Locate in Kent and Peel Ports were tireless in their wooing of Vestas. It seemed to have paid off. But they have been left standing at the altar, disappointed and a little embarrassed. The hopes of potential employees, including the dozens of apprentices being trained for the offshore wind industry, have been dashed.

Of course, there is always the outside possibility of reconciliation - but by then other partners may have come on the Sheerness scene. Let’s hope so.



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Categories: Employment | Environment

Good old Gord

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Monday, September 27 2010

Three cheers for Gordon Henderson, the new MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

I chaired a question and answer session the other day at which he gave some forthright answers to some tough question by Swale business people at the flagship Kent Science Park.

It’s unfashionable to praise politicians these days, but it was good to hear a local MP with such a good grasp of business. As a former store manager of Woolworths and now a business consultant, he has a strong business hinterland.

Criticism of bankers was the main topic on the agenda, and for 30 minutes, he heard some horror stories about the failures of banks to invest in good small businesses. The banks may claim that there is plenty of money to lend but not enough good propositions. But hearing a succession of testimonies against banks is enough to make you doubt everything a banker says.

Banks are paying pathetic interest rates to savers despite the historic 0.5 per cent base rate, and widening their margins to borrowers. Loans that are approved to business are at such exhorbitant rates that would-be borrowers don’t want to risk it. Nor do they have any wish to put their family home on the line.

Gordon Henderson was sympathetic to all these views but the limits of power in a new MP were obvious to see. He promised to convey the local message to ministers, but it must be hard with so many knocking at their door to convince them.

That he has been around the block many times in business and political circles suggests he would make a good junior minister in Mr Cable’s department.

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Categories: Business | Local Politics

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