Vince Cable MP visited Rotherham manufacturer AESSEAL to meet the 100,000th person hired through the Regional Growth Fund - then warned rebalancing the economy would take 25 years.
The business secretary met Luke Purshouse, a 23-year-old graduate who has been hired as a technical support engineer by the global seals specialist, which received a £1.7m Government grant.
He also met 19-year-old apprentice Madeleine Kearney - one of 48 at the company - and founder Chris Rea who revealed the firm’s plans to reshore production from China and India - and his ambition to be the world’s number one seal company by 2029.
But against this backdrop of success Mr Cable warned it would be years before manufacturing was where it ought to be.
He said: “We are beginning to see the right things happening, the reshoring of production and output going back up.
“But we are at the beginning of a very long journey. It will take 25 years to turn this around and completely rebalance the economy, I have only done five years.
“The RGF scheme has proved its value, we have created 100,000 jobs and invested £1bn in substantial projects. Some has been handed over to the Local Enterprise Partnerships and schemes in Sheffield, Liverpool and Plymouth in particular have been run well.
“I came to Sheffield shortly after the election and the mood was very negative. Today it is much more positive.”
Earlier, Chris Rea explained why he was bringing production home.
He said: “Our labour costs are seven-and-a-half per cent of the selling price.
“By being a ferociously efficient manufacturer we can make it cheaper here than anywhere else in the world, through investment in design, equipment, processes and people.”
He also explained how some of the RGF money was being spent to keep the company ahead.
“We are working on seals that require more precision engineering. We are grateful for funds to do research at the top of the technology ladder.”