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Penguin fancier
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Why aren't we talking about this?

Leicestershire firm is planning to create 2,000 jobs with £250m HQ expansion

A firm is planning to create 2,000 jobs in a massive expansion of its vehicle research and testing centre.

The announcement by the Motor Industry Research Association (Mira), which is planning to invest £250 million developing its headquarters near Hinckley, came as a welcome boost for the county on the same day as the full impact of the loss of another major employer was spelled out.

Closure of AstraZeneca's plant in Loughborough next year could take more than £31 million out of the local economy each year as the spending power of the company and its 1,300 employees disappears, according to a report by East Midlands Development Agency (Emda).

Mira, which provides research and testing services for the automotive industry at Higham on the Hill, said 2,000 jobs could be created over the next 10 years.

The plan's focus is the development of an engineering centre and an improved technology park within Mira's 750-acre site, off the A5.

Terry Spall, commercial director for Mira Technology Park Ltd, said the project would see buildings dating from the 1950s replaced by modern workshops, laboratories and offices.

He said: "While our work is at the cutting edge of what is possible, we have many buildings, including our main office block, that are environmentally inefficient and far from ideal.

"We are in danger of missing business opportunities as a result."

Mira employs 450 people at its headquarters, mainly engineers and technicians. The new jobs will be created across the redeveloped site.

Mr Spall said: "Our technology park, which is home to 32 world-class companies, including Toyota, Jaguar and Land Rover, has also reached its capacity. This expansion will allow us to lay the foundations for growth. We have an order book worth £41 million a year but believe we can become a £100 million business."

Discussions have begun with Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and residents to refine the plans, which include cycle paths and sports facilities open to the public.

A planning application should be submitted by the end of the year. If approved, work would be completed in 2013.

Council leader Stuart Bray said: "Mira's plans represent a huge boost for jobs in Hinckley and Bosworth as well as being really good news for the regional economy."

Meanwhile, Emda's consultants yesterday said the worst-case scenario of AstraZeneca's decision to quit Loughborough would be £31.1 million lost annually from Charnwood, Hinckley, North West Leicestershire and Rushcliffe.

The wider cost to the East Midlands could be £51.4 million.

Mike Carr, of Emda, is chairman of a task force set up try to limit the economic impact of AstraZeneca's closure.

He said: "We are talking some big numbers – but that supposes there will be no activity on AstraZeneca's site when it leaves.

"We are entering a critical period now as we try to find a use that will provide high-quality jobs."

Emda reported 400 AstraZeneca staff had applied to be re-deployed to the firm's other sites, though only 250 posts will be available.

Nearly 40 had been allowed to leave to take up new jobs, 150 could retire and 100 said they would like to start a business.

Company spokesman Rodger McMillian said: "We are working with our staff to hold careers fairs and help them with retraining for a new career."

He said there had been interest in buying the 69-acre site.

90 Posts
As usual the mercury are quite negative about it. The Nuneaton news is much more positive:

MIRA has announced ambitious plans to totally revamp its headquarters on the A5 which could create up to 2,000 jobs for Nuneaton, Bedworth, Hinckley and North Warwickshire.

A world class facility could soon replace tired and out-dated buildings at the research and testing centre in a bid to attract even more business investment to the area.

Bosses at MIRA are planning a £250 million investment with the cash coming from the business and the private sector.

Consultations are now set to take place with residents to gauge how they feel about the proposals before a planning application is submitted to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council.

Terry Spall, commercial director at MIRA, said: "While our work is at the cutting edge of what is possible using technology, we have many buildings, including our main office block, that date back to the 1950's and despite improvements over the years they are environmentally inefficient and far from ideal.

"We have achieved 30 per cent growth over the past year, recruited 70 new staff and our current technology park - which is home to 32 world class companies - has reached capacity.

"We are now in danger of missing business opportunities as a result, which places a serious constraint on our ability to grow further."

The expansion could mean that more firms from around the world will be able to move on to the site using state-of-the-art workshops and laboratories and office space.

Not only will the new engineering centre and improved technology park provide employment opportunities at a range of skill levels, jobs will also be created during the construction of the new facilities.

Mr Spall added: "A majority of the positions would be filled locally, but there will be a need to employ further afield as well.

"The expansion will have a campus environment feel and will include facilities for the community as well."

The ambitious plans could also see a hotel created on the site, as well as revamping existing sporting facilities and incorporating cycle paths which will be accessible to the community.

Planning permission is expected to be submitted to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council by the end of this year, once the consultation process has come to an end and this could mean that the new centre could be operational by 2013.

Stuart Bray, leader of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, said: "We are really excited about these plans and we believe the time is right for this investment.

"MIRA's commitment to expand their operations in this area show a great vote of confidence in their existing workforce and the potential of people who live in this area, recognising their contribution towards making MIRA a world-leader in advanced engineering."

90 Posts
100 More jobs in Leicestershire

One of the first commercially viable mass-market electric cars is to be developed in Leicestershire.

Global automotive engineer the Motor Industry Research Association (Mira), which is based near Hinckley, is collaborating with the Global Electric Vehicle Company (GevCo) to create an electric vehicle that will "successfully compete" with petrol and diesel-powered models.

The partnership will see Ipswich company GevCo moving its base to the Mira headquarters, and is expected to create up to 100 jobs in the county.

A Mira spokesman said: "This marks the start of an exciting chapter in the development of a new generation of electric vehicles.

"Mira has already got a lot of low-carbon vehicle experience and this is a nice complementary project to continue what we are doing best.

"Electric vehicles are in their infancy and, with the partnership, we are entering a new chapter."

The project is still in its early stages and plans so far are for research and design to take place at the site. It is not known whether the cars will be built there yet.

Mira, which provides research and testing services for the automotive industry, recently helped develop Jaguar's Limo Green extended range electric vehicle.

The collaboration with GevCo, announced at the European Future Energy Forum in London this week, will start with the design of a four-seat "e-city" car, which will incorporate recyclable materials alongside energy-storage technology. If successful, the companies hope to create a series of vehicles.

Project workers say the innovative "white label" concept for the vehicles means other companies will be able to take on the design and rebrand the cars as their own.

The Mira spokesman said: "The innovative thing is that there will be a vehicle which will have no branding on it which will comply with international legislation.

"A company such as Apple, Virgin or JCB, which might be interested in entering car production, will be able to buy a blueprint.

"It will be a framework to which they can make additions and have something which will be unique to themselves.

"There has never before been the opportunity in the motor industry to start with a blank canvas."

GevCo chief executive Steve Woolley said: "This collaboration will lead to the creation of a vehicle that achieves a step-change in the way society views personal mobility.

"We aim to create a vehicle that is technologically advanced, can be personalised to reflect people's lifestyles and social values – a car for the iPod generation."

GevCo previously considered sites in Norfolk and Dagenham before being introduced to Mira by economic development company Prospect Leicestershire.

Prospect Leicestershire executive chairman Nick Carter said: "This helps to cement Leicestershire's position at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technology."

What with this and that Hydrogen fuel car in the City, Leicestershire is looking really good for low carbon businesses
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