Airbus hits the jackpot

News has broken that Airbus in Broughton has been awarded a £28 million grant from the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure the future of hi-tech wing production in Flintshire and to create a new centre to develop composite wing production.

Some will question why the Welsh Assembly Government is putting £28 million from its funds into one large business and which amounts to over 10 per cent of the entire business support package for Welsh business? Won't other large firms, such as Anglesey Aluminium and Corus now start asking for similar amounts to secure future jobs at their plants, thusreducing the funds available to Welsh business?

Others will ask why the Assembly Government had to pay for this and why Lord Mandelson didn't come up with the additional money from his new super department to support what is essentially a UK operation (especially when Broughton employs thousands of people from outside of Wales).

Finally, the more cynical will say that Airbus has played the Assembly Government perfectly and squeezed a massive grant from them by suggesting, at a time of recession, that the leading UK manufacturing plant which coincidentally is based in Wales, will shed hundreds of jobs.

While all of these arguments have merit, we mustn't forget that Airbus is the real jewel in the Welsh economy and if the investment secures the future of this plant for the next decade, then it is worth every penny. For once, the Assembly Government has done the right thing as I cannot even begin to contemplate what the alternative would have been to Airbus closing down.

However, I just hope that Rhodri, in giving such a large amount to Airbus, has ensured that some of this money will go to building up capacity within Welsh universities in the area of composite materials and that Airbus will have to support similar development within its supply chain of Welsh companies.

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