Forgemasters chairman: Sheffield manufacturing ‘making me cheerful’

Outgoing Master Cutler Tony Pedder.
Outgoing Master Cutler Tony Pedder.
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In a world awash with opinions on the future of manufacturing, there is one voice with a unique view – and he’s more optimistic than at any time in 40 years.

Master Cutler Tony Pedder - who joined British Steel in 1972 and is today chairman of Forgemasters - believes the sector has reached a tipping point following a string of gains during his year in office, including a more balanced economic recovery and a Government that finally “gets it.”

He said: “It’s my belief that manufacturing is starting to come back. It just feels we have reached a tipping point.

“This Government didn’t just want a recovery from the recession, it wanted to avoid the same thing happening again.

“I have seen some encouragement towards manufacturing and they are beginning to have some serious discussions about infrastructure.

“I have been involved in manufacturing all my working life. The period at British Steel included massive job losses while the industry globally was growing.

“I sense that’s just beginning to turn around. And with demand for steel set to triple by 2050 there will be huge opportunities at a time when manufacturing is coming back home - if we stay the course.

“I still think it is the heartbeat of the city.”

After concerted campaigning by the Company of Cutlers and others, Government had introduced tax relief on energy and innovation, while both parties have focused on a long-term strategy for the sector, he added.

Ministers had also invested in skills - from Catapult Centres to apprenticeships - and the universities were working more closely with business than for “some years.”

The success of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre had created a magnet for companies and could help attract major original equipment manufacturers, creating thousands of jobs.

Re-shoring - bringing manufacturing back from overseas - was gaining ground and a Northern Hub plan, linking cities, could also benefit Sheffield and the sector, he added.