‘Resilience’ was the word of the day at an event hosted by Swindon Chamber of Commerce and addressed by MP Robert Buckland and LEP director Paddy Bradley this morning (Friday).
The event was arranged long before Honda’s announcement that it would be ceasing car production in Swindon from 2021, with the direct loss of 3,500 jobs plus thousands more in the supply chain.
But the news - still ten days fresh - dominated the discussion at a business breakfast with the title ‘Swindon - a Great Place to Live and Work’, but which might easily have been renamed ‘Swindon - Life After Honda’.
Mr Buckland, whose constituency includes the motor manufacturing plant, said “Honda have made a mistake” in deciding to discontinue production in the UK, and supported government and union efforts to change minds in Japan.
But should that lobbying fail, the MP said it was important to do “something really special” with the site, to “maintain high-skilled jobs.”
And with ministers and even the prime minister paying particular attention to Swindon, now, was the time, he said, to be bidding for central government funding for infrastructure, housing, and initiatives like the new Institute for Technology.
“Now is the time to be ambitious,” he told business leaders. Honda’s announcement was like a punch to the stomach, but now “it’s time to get off the canvas and fight back.”
Paddy Bradley, executive director of Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership was similarly upbeat.
“Swindon is renowned for the way it bounces back - it is highly resilient,” he said.
He said Honda’s legacy would be a highly-skilled workforce with transferable skills, and a well-connected site for development which offered “enormous potential”.