This week I spoke at an event at Doncaster College organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, promoting apprenticeships which will help companies to expand, innovate and grow. It links in to one of my most important priorities for Doncaster – creating jobs and economic growth.
There is much to be proud of in our town. Doncaster is a great place to live, work and visit. We have unparalleled assets, making Doncaster a smart place to invest. Not many boroughs can boast a prime location on the national road and rail network, an airport and North Sea ports within reach.
Today our economy is worth £4 billion, the second largest in the Sheffield City Region. But we still have some catching-up to do nationally. Our economic output is not high enough. We need more jobs at all levels, particularly skilled jobs that pay good wages. I plan to achieve this by focusing on Doncaster’s strengths.
We already have a competitive manufacturing sector, employing 10,000, and a growing engineering sector. Our rail industry is particularly strong and has a bright future. As one of the most important railway centres in the UK, we need to capitalise on our unique assets. After all, this is the town which designed and built international icons like Mallard and The Flying Scotsman. We should build on this superb heritage.
As with most of Doncaster’s history, our successes have been based on our location. From Romans, to railways, racing and mining, it’s always been “location, location, location”. This will be vital. I want to see a real expansion in our logistics sector, providing an engine room for the distribution of goods and products around the UK. Our new airport link road and the iPort development at Rossington show how we can achieve this.
Earlier this month we received a Financial Times award for being one of most attractive places in Europe for overseas companies. Doncaster featured on a Top 10 list with the likes of Bilbao and Edinburgh. Everything we need to succeed is in place, but we can’t sit back and wait for the phone to ring. That’s why I proposed and secured an Enterprise Zone at the airport, which can bring 4,000 jobs.
My predecessor appears to think we shouldn’t be part of Sheffield City Region. I think we need to get round the table with our colleagues and fight for Doncaster. If that’s what is needed to bring 4000 jobs to Doncaster, that is what I will do. It’s vital that we do everything we can to support businesses in Doncaster, which is why I have changed the rules to ensure that we get quotes from local organisations when the council spends its money.
And returning to my original point, I’m pleased to announce that my pledge to create 750 apprenticeships is well ahead of schedule. After less than a year we are already pushing the 250 mark.