CEO, Comtek Network Systems UK Ltd & Chair DBF

North Wales has amassed some of the most technologically advanced manufacturing and engineering firms in the whole of the UK.

North East Wales is the advanced manufacturing powerhouse for the United Kingdom with 34% of its employment coming from manufacturing.

These industries have created high quality, high skilled employment for Wales. The creation of such an impressive industrial hub has taken over half a century of hard work, led by Lord Barry Jones who was then a local Member of Parliament.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has inflicted an existential threat to this renowned industrial region.

Some of these amazing companies have already disappeared and many are struggling to keep their heads above water. The situation is pretty grim.

When the pandemic hit the region in early spring last year, these industries were encouraged to borrow to sail through this treacherous period.

Both the UK and the Welsh governments hoped that all would be fine by August last year.

Sadly, all such predictions proved to be totally wrong. The pandemic resurfaced with a vengeance that no one could have anticipated. Now we are witnessing a colossal number of infections within Europe and America.

Countries are in lockdown and the commercial activities of most companies or organisations have almost ground to a halt due to the self-isolation of the employees.

The UK and Welsh governments have been generous in supporting our badly hurt hospitality and leisure industries with grants and business rate rebates. This has been a welcome intervention.

However, unfortunately, our engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors in North Wales have been largely left to defend themselves, mainly by borrowing heavily.

Their indebtedness, together with catastrophic trade conditions created by the pandemic, has made any further borrowing no longer a sustainable solution. In fact, the vast majority of the banks are very reluctant to lend even with the UK Governments' 80% guarantee scheme under CBILS.

I believe it would be very short-sighted to ignore our amazing world class engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors.

The UK must strengthen this sector. This is the sector that will eventually revive the country's economy. This is the sector that, for decades, created sustainable, well paid, high skilled jobs for our communities in North Wales.

The Government's National Security and Investment Bill published on November 16 last year encouraged the UK to be self-reliant on its own home-gown technology industry.

Time is ticking fast and there is an urgency for both the UK and Welsh Governments to act now with a suite of rapid support to our key technology-based industries before it's too late. When a manufacturing-based organisation disappears, it vanishes for good.

Our engineering and advanced manufacturing sector in North Wales is on its knees and at a cliff edge. Support them with business rate relief and grants.

Encourage Wales' fantastic Development Bank (just like the Canadian Development Bank) to get involved in equity investment in our viable tech-based firms. The DBW will reap the return on their investment as soon as these organisations are fully functioning.

The Welsh Government should roll out the Economic Resilience Fund Phase Four, as promised in November last year, to viable, sustainable, future growth industries as fast as possible.

The next three months are a defining period for our great manufacturing and tech industries.

We need to act now as any delays will be very costly for Wales' future.