Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has told staff at a global engineering firm based in Silsden they are part of a national recovery in manufacturing that is also showing itself in towns like Keighley.
Mr Osborne was a guest of Advanced Actuators, which makes complex hydraulic machinery used in gas, oil and nuclear industries around the world.
And he said the government was committed to building a strong recovery in the North, highlighting Keighley as somewhere the tide is starting to turn.
Mr Osborne added: “I do see things improving.
“I see jobs being created in towns like Keighley and, above all, I see an attitude across the country, which is we’re not going to make the mistakes of ten years ago – as our Labour predecessors did – by putting all our bets on the City of London 200 miles away.
“The government is investing in the North based on manufacturing, and things are progressing.
“I’d be the first to say the job’s not done – there’s a long way to go. But Britain’s heading in the right direction – and Keighley’s heading in the right direction, too.”
After enjoying tea and a chat with apprentices beside a giant mechanism bound for Mexico, he also paid tribute to the firm’s policies of employing youngsters and using engineering parts made in Airedale.
“I’ve been hugely impressed by the advanced manufacturing that’s taking place here in Silsden,” the Chancellor said.
“What’s great about this company is it uses other local companies to make parts for things that are exported around the world.
“And it’s impressive the way they bring on the apprentices in their workforce.
“It’s a real vote of confidence in British manufacturing and the West Yorkshire economy – I find it hugely refreshing to see this happening.”
Mr Osborne had been invited to Advanced Actuators by Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, who was also on last Thursday afternoon’s visit.
Mr Osborne said: “Kris is a great champion of local businesses, and wanted me to see just what West Yorkshire is capable of.
“The people running this company say their export orders are growing, and that means Britain is paying its way in the world again, which is what our international trade plan is all about.”
Chris Woodhead, a director of Advanced Actuators, said: “We’ve really benefited from the new export finance scheme, where 80 per cent of any loan to a company is guaranteed by the government.
“It’s been fantastic to have Mr Osborne here and show him what we’re doing with youth employment, other local firms and global exports.”
“If this doesn’t ring his bell, there’s something wrong!” added Mr Woodhead, whose growing firm had a £3 million turnover last year, spent £1 million with local suppliers and has just won a £300,000 contract in China.
Shipley-born engineer Mr Woodhead started Advanced Actuators in 1999 with his friend from student days, Steve Lund, of Skipton, and both are committed to manufacturing in Airedale after opening their Silsden base in 2004, which now employs 29 highly skilled workers.
And as well as buying parts from local suppliers, they are very keen to encourage young talent to enter the world of engineering by offering apprenticeships.
Mr Woodhead said: “We have an open door policy with schools and colleges, and invite them to come down and see what we do.
“We want them to turn out youngsters who can see engineering can be ‘sexy’.
“Some of the things we have developed are quite astonishing – a hydraulic mechanism that uses only the power of a light bulb, but has the power to shift a Range Rover, for example.”
The Chancellor and Mr Hopkins then travelled to Haworth to talk to local traders about the new Employment Allowance, worth up to £2,000 off an employer’s National Insurance Contributions bill.
Mr Osborne visited Cobbles and Clay, an art cafe and pottery in Haworth’s Main Street, and other shops to talk about the new allowance.
Discussing the benefits the allowance will bring, Mr Osborne said: “This new tax cut is part of our long-term economic plan to back businesses investing in jobs. That is how you deliver greater economic security for hardworking people.”
Kris Hopkins said: “It was a great pleasure to welcome the Chancellor to Silsden and Haworth to meet a wide range of hardworking people, who are very committed to what they do.
“With business confidence now at a 22-year high, it was particularly fitting for him to visit Chris Woodhead and his team of highly-skilled staff at Advanced Actuators – a renowned global leader in its field.
“I know Mr Osborne was also hugely impressed by the business owners he met in Haworth, who make an equally important contribution to the local economy in Keighley. With the arrival of the Tour de France now only a few short months away, there is no better place to be in business than here. Exciting times most certainly lie ahead.”
Mr Osborne also made an impromptu visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum after talking to members of the public in nearby Main Street.
Sonia Boocock, the museum’s admissions officer, said one of Mr Osborne’s aides nipped up to ask whether he could call in.
She added: “It was very informal. It was just as if we were doing a private tour for members of the public.
“This is the first unofficial visit by a politician I can remember.”