THE European leader of Japanese warehousing giant, Vantec, has hailed the company's new £22.5m development near the Nissan plant in Sunderland as a "centre of excellence" for Europe's automotive industry.
Managing director of Vantec Europe, Martin Kendall, paid a visit to the firm’s 40,000sq metre warehouse yesterday, marking the largest investment ever made by the company during its 20 years in the North East.
He was joined by Takao Suzuki, the leader of Vantec’s parent company, Hitachi Transport System, who flew from Japan to announce the creation of 81 extra jobs at the Sunderland site. This is in addition to the 230 jobs the company is creating by 2015 as part of its £22.5m investment in the car parts warehouse.
Vantec was awarded £2.7m from the Regional Growth Fund to support the project, which is the first major development at any of the UK’s newly-created enterprise zones.
The warehouse will hold parts for cars being made by Nissan in its fast-growing Washington plant which this year revealed it was to manufacture the new Invitation model which is expected to create 2,000 jobs in the North East.
Vantec has been working in the North East for 20 years, mainly with Nissan, but also Cummins in Darlington and Komatsu in Washington, but said the RGF money and contribution from the LEP were important to the company making its biggest ever investment in the region.
Kendall said: “We are very pleased to be working further with Nissan, but the RGF money was crucial to persuading us to invest here and also working with the LEP helped speed the process up substantially.
“We drew up designs for the warehouse in February, by April we were digging the first turf and we expect the warehouse to be fully operational by December. It’s been a very fast process from beginning to end but we promised Nissan we would deliver in that time-frame and that is why we won the contract in the first place.
“We will be predominantly working within the automotive sector but inevitably, due to our connections with Hitachi, we will also be involved with the company’s train manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe.
“The infrastructure up here for importing and exporting goods is fantastic and the workforce in the North East is superb. That is one of the reasons why Japanese companies enjoy working with the people in this region; they are hard working, committed folk who really do bend over backwards for the company.
“We’ll be working very closely with Nissan but this is undoubtedly a centre of logistics excellence for the wider UK and we’ll be looking to win contracts with other customers to make full use of this fantastic facility.”
Suzuki, chief executive of Hitachi Transport System, said: “It is great news to celebrate significant new contracts for Vantec Europe and new jobs, as well as remarkable progress with the construction of the new warehouse. We are delighted that Vantec is receiving strong support from Sunderland City Council and the LEP.”
Sunderland City Council worked closely with Vantec on the RGF application and the plans for the expansion. The new building will complement Vantec’s existing 148,000sq ft warehouse at Cherry Blossom Way, in Sunderland.
Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “Vantec’s new warehouse is an ambitious project which echoes our city’s world-class ambitions to be Europe’s automotive hub. The new jobs created by Vantec is the best news possible for the city, the region and the UK.”
As reported in The Journal yesterday, the North East enterprise zone is to be expanded, a move confirmed by Chancellor George Osborne during his visit to Vantec. He said: “When I announced the decision to create the North East enterprise zone I said that if it was a success, I would consider the case for expanding it. What I’ve seen with my own eyes today at Vantec shows that it is a success. I can confirm that the Government will offer new tax breaks for an additional 40 hectare site - provided a local agreement can be struck in the next 12 months.”
The warehouse is planned to open in December, is the size of six football pitches and will handle around six million plastic and metal containers each year.