A GOVERNMENT minister saw for herself how a £1.9m investment is helping growth at an automotive components supply firm.
Communities and Local Government Minister Baroness Stowell visited Peterlee-based Mecaplast as part of a whistle-stop tour of the region yesterday.
She saw how investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Government’s Regional Growth Fund is allowing for real progress for the firm, which has recently expanded its factory and doubled its workforce from 85 to 180 people to handle significant contracts from Nissan.
The Baroness was accompanied on the tour by LEP chairman Paul Woolston and met UK general manager for Mecaplast David Cann and his employees, alongside Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and chair of the North East Combined Authority.
Mecaplast, on the North West Industrial Estate, was one of three North East sites the Minister visited yesterday, including ones at Washington and Newcastle.
The Baroness said a highlight of her visit to Mecaplast was “meeting some of the apprentices and the really great workforce working in a business that is doing so well”.
She added: “It’s doubled in sized in the last year alone and you get a sense of just how well things are going for the business here, for Mecaplast and for the people who are working here.
“Really it’s a great example of how things are progressing in this particular part of the North East.”
The Minister said she had been keen to see how the money provided by the Government was being put to good use.
But she added that funding is only “one part of the picture” and the most important thing to the success of any area is “the people”.
She paid tribute to the “real drive, motivation and ambition” of Mecaplast’s staff.
“They are nothing other than enthusiastic and ambitious for success and I’m just pleased we have been able to make some contribution to that happening.”
Mr Cann said it was motivational for his staff to meet such a prestigious visitor.
He added: “Hopefully this will be a year we can consolidate on the work done in the last 12 months and we can look to the next five years.”
Mr Woolston said: “Mecaplast is among a number of initiatives to grow jobs that the LEP has financially supported.
“Investment of £1.9m from the LEP and the Regional Growth Fund allowed the company to buy new equipment and create more space for new employment.
“We should be proud of initiatives like this and the region’s position at the forefront of the low carbon vehicle and oil, gas and offshore sectors.
“These are all industries which will support the region’s economic growth in the long term.
“It’s vitally important t hat politicians in London are aware of the difference these types of developments are making to the region’s economy.”