BOSSES at a business hub helping to prepare a new generation of skilled workers have reinstated their vow to create thousands of jobs and now say: ‘We want to be a global player'.
The ambition from the Solent Enterprise Zone comes after a think-tank accused the hub and others like it of 'failing' in the summer.
Leaders dismissed the criticism and say ‘the bar has risen' since 2017 – by which point the think-tank said the zone had created just 110 jobs.
Latest figures show there are more than 100 firms on the former HMS Daedalus site, in Lee-on-the-Solent, with much of it still to be developed.
Anne-Marie Mountifield, chief executive of the Solent Enterprise Partnership that oversees the site, said: ‘There’s 700 jobs, 1,100 people accessing training here, 300 apprentices, 200 new homes and a brand new airstrip that has 30,000 flight movements a year.
‘I think that’s a very different story to the one in the Centre for Cities report.'
She added: ‘We are on track to develop out a facility that should see 3,000 jobs on site by 2025.’
Since the zone was established in 2012 it has welcomed Fareham College’s specialist engineering campus, Cemast, the new national Coastguard training centre and a raft of firms specialising in aviation, marine manufacturing and engineering.
Bosses hope this growing roster of businesses and their international trade links could catapult the enterprise zone to global success.
One firm they say is leading the way is Proptech Aero Ltd, which manufactures propellers, including those used by seaplanes in Mauritius.
‘[The ultimate goal] started out with an ambition to be the south's premier location for aviation and advanced manufacturing and I think now the goal is much higher,' said Ms Mountifield.
‘I think we’re into an arena now where we want it to be a global hub for advanced manufacturing and aviation, to include defence.’
She added: ‘I don't want to be another Northern Powerhouse. I think we are bold, brave, southern pioneers. That’s where we need to be.’
In a bid to boost opportunities for local skilled workers enterprise zone bosses will soon welcome a new civil engineering centre to the site.
The Fareham College-backed training facility, opposite Cemast, will focus on development aspects from structural engineering to construction.
Ms Mountifield hailed the build, named Ctec, as a national first ‘driven by the employers in the area’.
She added: ‘We’ve got a lot of construction work planned for the next five years, whether it’s the new smart motorway or new homes going up.
‘Wouldn't it be nice if we could source the skills we need to actually drive those developments forward from the local area? I think we can now with Ctec.’