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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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The future looks bright for Cumbria businesses

AN enterprise expert told the peninsula’s business community that Furness is poised to enjoy its brightest period in two decades.

Harry Knowles, Furness Enterprise executive director, delivered the ultra-positive message for future prospects as he addressed the organisation’s annual open meeting. He concluded: “It’s up to us to grasp it.”

Mr Knowles, who has been with the Lindal-based business support organisation for 22 years, said the situation at Barrow shipyard, in particular, painted a very bright future.

He told the meeting in The Forum on Tuesday evening: “I personally feel the economic prospects for Furness are the best I’ve seen.

“The economic situation with BAE, the engine of the local economy, is the best I’ve seen for at least two decades.

“We have seven Astute submarines built or under construction, and we also have potential for, and we all hope very much for, the new four Successor submarines to the Vanguard class, hopefully starting from 2015 onwards.

“Both the Labour and Conservative parties are committed to maintaining a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent and a community and trade union-led campaign (Keep Our Future Afloat) does fantastic, tireless work to make the case to politicians of all parties and anybody in a position of influence about how critical it is to place work with BAE if we are to maintain the capacity and capability to build advanced submarines in this country.”

Mr Knowles said calculations showed the shipyard will see another 1,000 jobs and £1bn of investment should Successor go ahead as hoped in Barrow.

He said the bright prospects were also due to GlaxoSmithKline’s planned £350m Ulverston biopharmaceutical plant and commitment to new investment from Centrica and Siemens.

Mr Knowles also believed Furness was in a good position to get the best out of its potential, thanks to strategies such as John Woodcock’s blueprint for Furness as a National Cradle for Advanced Manufacturing.

FE, as the lead agency in a consortium, has also successfully bid to RBS to help develop a culture of enterprise in local schools and colleges.

lSee Tuesday’s Evening Mail for more from the Furness Enterprise open meeting.

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