Recently revived Jensen Motors defied expectations by choosing to build its new S-V8 sports car on Merseyside, rather than in the West Midlands, traditional home to Jensen and parent company the Creative Group.
Jensen managing director, Keith Rauer, says: `The first suggestion was to locate near where we were in the West Midlands. But when you’re looking for a supplier you compare three tenders. Embarking on a new venture, we thought we should do the same and have a good look around.’
The company considered three areas – Merseyside, the West Midlands, and South Wales.
`We took several factors into account,’ says Rauer. These included general infrastructure; availability and cost of labour; the supplier base within the area; transport links; and how easy the local councils and government offices were to deal with.
`The skills base was not so important as having a pool of labour available, because we’re going to train people, like Nissan in the north east and Toyota in Derby,’ says Rauer.
`Sometimes in manufacturing more skilled people can be a problem. They find different ways of doing things, whereas we want to lay down a process and train the workforce to work to it.
`The supplier base is highly developed in the West Midlands but it is developing in Liverpool because of the decision to site Jaguar production at Halewood, which has led to automotive suppliers moving into the area.
`The motorway network is good, whereas the M6 around Birmingham has congestion problems. We were also very warmly welcomed in Liverpool. Though there was not much to choose between the various local councils in terms of how easy they were to deal with, Liverpool fought hard to win the project, not just with financial support but by putting us in touch with suppliers and landlords.’
All three areas were eligible for regional selective assistance, but Merseyside also has European objective 1 status (see panel, right), and had greenfield sites available. As a result, Jensen’s new home will be a brand new factory built to the company’s specification, with rent reduced through objective 1 funding to around 20% below the West Midlands equivalent.
`The two main factors were the low cost base and the possibility of getting a new factory on a greenfield site at a reasonable rent,’ says Rauer.
`But looking in round terms at the whole package we felt we gave Jensen the best opportunity to grow in the future by locating on Merseyside.’