Dave Leggett | 9 June 2003
Hearing how the Welsh Development Agency and Ford Bridgend (where Ford makes engines) work together in such close-knit fashion was news to me. The WDA seems to be fairly switched on for one of those regional/local government investment agencies and has obviously achieved quite a lot in terms of attracting automotive industry investment to south Wales in particular. Mind you, the Ford guy at the event (Colin Johnson) made it clear that initial impressions of the WDA were far from positive. It wasn't until the WDA seriously listened to criticism from outside that things began to change. One little gem that popped up in his presentation was that because Ford's pay rates are set nationally (in agreement with labour unions), Bridgend employs workers at around 20% above the going rate locally. That seems like a large gap but Colin apparently does his bit to reassure potential investors to Wales that they don't have to pay Ford rates.
Also, there were a couple of people from South Africa at the event who were keen to talk to me. Interestingly, they were kind of in competition with each other - one from Gauteng, the other from East London, two rival areas within the country seeking auto industry investment. Both were especially interested in my ideas of how South Africa is perceived in Europe and my thoughts on what they should be doing in a profile raising sense. Some fascinating discussion ensued. I always enjoy seeing things from another point of view.
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