Manufacturing alive and kicking

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Dave Yallop, operations director at pharmaceutical injection moulding specialist polymermedics, says manufacturers are more important to Cornwall than ever

Here’s an easy question: which industry has the biggest turnover in Cornwall?

It must be tourism, right? Our sunny beaches, breathtaking landscapes and beautiful fishing villages quite rightly attract visitors by the millions every year. Visitors that book out our hotels and guesthouses all summer long and partake of our excellent local food.

But it’s not tourism.

You might not know it, but Cornwall’s manufacturing industry is alive and well, quietly working away in factories, plants and industrial estates right across the county, making everything from vans to valves, and medical parts to microwave attenuators.

The surprising fact is that, in 2015, Cornwall’s manufacturing businesses are turning over more than our accommodation and food and drink sectors combined… and that turnover’s growing, year on year.

I’m not knocking tourism, of course – those businesses do a great job, and visitors spend handsomely in local shops, too – I’m just putting manufacturing in context.

A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that we barely make anything in the UK anymore, with everything moved to giant plants elsewhere in Europe or Asia. In fact, a recent report by the CBI shows manufacturing in decline in many parts of the country.

And as Cornwall’s fairly remote, it’s understandable if people think our manufacturers might struggle more than most. But in truth, the companies that start or move here tend to be highly technical, and expert at what we do.

Here in Cornwall, many of our manufacturers are world-class names in our own specialist niches – exporting cutting-edge goods and knowledge right across the globe.

And that’s great news for Cornwall’s economy as a whole. Because manufacturing jobs tend to be more skilled, better paid and less seasonal than most. On average, an employee in Cornish manufacturing earns twice as much as one who works in tourism.

Manufacturers create work for other businesses too. Southwest Regional Accounts show our industry in Cornwall has an employment multiplier of 1.51 — more than almost all other sectors. This means that for every 100 manufacturing jobs we create in Cornwall, another 51 are created in other sectors as a direct result. It’s a vital contribution to the economy that perhaps doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Apprenticeships are growing, too, attracting some of Cornwall’s best and brightest young talent, and partnerships with universities are helping to bring a new generation of to our sector.

In manufacturing, we’re perhaps not as glamorous as some other sectors. But we contribute a tenth of Cornwall’s GVA, we invest in new skills and technology, and many of us are breaking new ground on the world stage – all year round.

Now the summer season’s ended, that might be a comforting thought.