McLaren, Boeing, and another big name coming soon… why are manufacturing companies expanding in Sheffield amidst Brexit fears?

A globally recognised brand will be announcing plans to expand in Sheffield next month, joining newcomers McLaren and Boeing.

The new investor aims to create hundreds of new jobs in the city centre according to Sheffield City Council’s Investment Manager Dean Hughes.

This announcement comes while Brexit fears are driving others abroad. 72% of British manufacturers said Brexit was their biggest source of uncertainty, according to a joint survey by EEF, the manufacturers trade body, and insurer AIG.

So why does Sheffield seem to be an exception to the rule? Why did McLaren and Boeing choose to invest here while other globally recognised brands move abroad?

McLaren announced plans to build an advanced manufacturing site between Sheffield and Rotherham in 2017. The £50 million site will start operations by 2020, providing 200 jobs.

The AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) will be making carbon-fibre chassis used in every McLaren car, and marks only the first phase of McLaren’s investment in the Sheffield region.

The British company provides luxury sports cars and supercars which range in price from £130,000 to £3,800,000.

Meanwhile Ford, Honda and Nissan have announced plans to move abroad because of the unstable pound and probable tariffs which will be introduced after the Brexit deal.

Mike Flewitt, McLaren CEO and former Ford manufacturing vice-president, expressed these fears last year.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “How will we be able to import components? Export cars? Well, we don’t actually know how to trade with each other under those terms.

“These are genuine fears. The people I feel most sorry for are some of the car companies that came and invested in the UK through the 1980s and 1990s to make Britain their base for trading in Europe.”

Dean Hughes, who met McLaren representatives last week, said that the biggest incentive for manufacturers moving to Sheffield is the unrivalled world-class training provided by the University of Sheffield.

Mr Hughes said the skilled workforce and expertise in carbon-fibre manufacturing is unrivalled elsewhere.

View of Sheffield from the Arts Tower

Another reason McLaren opened their second manufacturing facility in Sheffield was down to British brand loyalty.

Mr Hughes said: “McLaren is not just about putting a badge on something they have manufactured, but it’s about their brand and their legacy. They were born here in the UK on the track, and their talent cluster is here.”

Other companies like Nissan and Ford are based abroad, and their decisions to close UK plants were made in Japan and America.

“Now anyone travelling down the parkway into Sheffield will see McLaren on one side, and the Boeing facility on the other. I think that’s a great statement for the success of the region. Yes, you hear all these bad news stories about Brexit but here in Sheffield we’ve got businesses growing.”

Sheffield City Council hope that the continuing influx of global brands in Sheffield will raise the aspirations of young people.