'A huge opportunity for Grimsby to seize future'
THE Business Minister responsible for Britain's £2.7 billion Regional Growth Fund has described Grimsby as the gateway to the offshore wind-farm industry.
In northern Lincolnshire to launch the £30 million Growing The Humber pot, of which £10 million is ring-fenced to support businesses involved with renewable energy on the south bank, Michael Fallon, pictured, said: "This will help build the supply chain. Grimsby is changing. This is a huge opportunity for Grimsby to seize the future. Grimsby will be the gateway."
The launch came just days after Danish wind energy giant Dong revealed to the Telegraph that the town is the desired location for its operations and maintenance base for the Round Two Westermost Rough farm – with 40 permanent jobs likely. With Centrica, together with Siemens and RES already working from the town on commissioned or consented farms, and E.on poised to settle in Grimsby to maintain Humber Gateway, Lord Haskins, chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, said the area was already carrying forward the Energy Estuary vision.
"Grimsby is probably the biggest benefactor of the whole sector," he said, with Mr Fallon adding that many of the skills from the days of the fishing industry were as relevant now as they were then, particularly in maritime engineering.
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Of the Growing The Humber pot, which he officially launched before a gathering of 340 people at Scunthorpe's Baths Hall, Mr Fallon said: "It is expected to create 300 jobs and bring £125 million of investment from the private sector.
"That's going to be a massive boost to this region's economy. Government is doing what it can to create the business environment that will give the crucial confidence that Lord Haskins has referred to.
"From what I have seen, this region has got the resourcefulness and business ideas to deliver in the next few years.
Companies large and small joined local authority representatives and trade and sector organisation representatives in the audience. They heard how business investment grants range from £50,000 to £2.5 million, with £1 of public money for every £4 of private funding being worked towards. It is also expected that one sustainable job per £20,000 hand-out will be created. The deadline for expressions of interest is March 15, with detailed applications by April 19.
Jason Longhurst, head of development at North East Lincolnshire Council, the accountable local authority for the fund, is enthusiastic about what the £10 million can do for Grimsby.
He said: "We are looking at clustering an entire supply chain network, now just in operations and maintenance, but all the training and support that comes with it. We are expecting 200 to 500 jobs in operations and maintenance, with more in the supply chain."
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Asked about the role of the proposed Able Marine Energy Park at North Killingholme in realising the area's Energy Estuary ambition, Mr Fallon said: "That is important. We need to get a decision on that."
It currently awaits development consent from Government, with a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate due imminently.