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Senior management at Liberty British Aluminum’s site in Fort William have told Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) the company is still committed to its plan for a new alloy wheels plant.
Alistair Dodds, deputy chairman of the HIE board, and Carroll Buxton, Interim HIE chief executive, were in Lochaber for several days last week as part of the organisation’s board meeting in Lochaber.
They visited the Liberty smelter site in Fort William, where the company plans to create around 400 new jobs at the alloy wheels plant, and met Brian King, director of Lochaber operations for Liberty and its sister GFG Alliance, SIMEC.
‘Obviously their plans are perhaps moving a bit more slowly than they would have hoped, but they remain very committed to the area,’ said Ms Buxton. ‘And they’ve increased employment at the plant since they’ve arrived – not by a huge number, 40, but 40 is still important.
‘One significant thing they said to us was they have found it easier to attract skilled professional people to vacancies recently. That’s a real plus.’
Mr Dodds added: ‘The fact they have added 40 staff at this time is incredible. They are talking about doing up estate houses and starting to invest in that. A lot of things were quite positive.’
Mr Dodds, however, said Brexit, which is causing uncertainty for many businesses across Lochaber and the Highlands and islands, was an issue for Liberty.
‘One of their [Liberty] issues just now is Brexit and the uncertainty around it, which is the same as other businesses. Who would invest huge sums in something when you don’t know outcome?’ said Mr Dodds.
Ms Buxton added: ‘They showed us figures about the automotive industry which in recent years has had a downturn but they are still confident it is going to recover.
‘The messages they were giving to us is that they are still doing the planning and progressing with what they are intending to do and are committed to the project.
‘They gave us every indication they are progressing and are in discussions with major customers. In line with other developments, people are interested to see the outcome of Brexit, but they remain committed to the project.’
Carol Buxton and Alastair Dodds of HIE in Fort William last week. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
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