On Friday I had the great pleasure of opening a new factory for Storrington based manufacturers Tesla Engineering.
The new 23,500 square feet factory is a second unit for Tesla Engineering, located opposite their existing Water Lane site.
Tesla Engineering are a local manufacturing success story. They produce high technology superconducting magnets which are used in medical, scientific and industrial applications. The company exports globally to countries including the USA and China.
The company, which has been based at Storrington for the last 40 years, has built a turnover in the region of £30million, up by 50 per cent in the last three years. It now has a highly skilled workforce of almost 300 people - some of whom have been recruited from overseas for their specialist skills.
I was particularly struck by Managing Director Mike Begg's comments on the day. He praised Horsham District Council for supporting the development, but said that it had taken three years to put the £3.5 million building up, a "process that would have been cheaper and more straightforward in the USA."
Mr Begg said that there were "... too many environmental obstacles that complicate the process. We need to wake up as a nation and realise that we have to compete with the rest of the world if we want to maintain our standard of living."
He spoke of the need to develop high technology export jobs, and said that Britain needed to create a long term strategy for science and engineering.
I agree. The success of Tesla shows that Britain can still compete in manufacturing and that this a sector which we should talk up, not down, in our economy.
But the issues faced by the company in expanding remind us that we need to foster a climate of support for high tech manufacturing, maintain an open economy and tackle obstacles to business growth.
The signs are good. This week, the latest figures showed that private sector employment has risen by more than 2 million since the election. There's been a record rise in employment over the last 3 months. Unemployment is down to its lowest level in over 5 years.
Crucially, manufacturing output rose substantially last year, and manufacturing jobs increased with it.
Companies like Tesla are contributing to this success. We have to make sure that they can continue to compete.