Move by Bamford a vote of confidence in workforce
In the early part of the summer the crisis over Wrightbus had deepened. An effort to get it a bailout had hit the buffers because the company was being prepared for a sale which meant the government was unable to intervene in the sale process.
The die was cast that the iconic bus-making factory would probably be sold to an overseas company eager to snap up its intellectual property on hydro-power and reduce it to a pale shadow of its former self.
I knew that was not in the interests of Ballymena or our economy. I knew we needed someone of substance and quality to intervene. In a meeting I had with the permanent secretary of the economy department I told him I was going to use an old contact I had with Jo Bamford, a British industrialist and son of billionaire tycoon and founder of JCB. The permanent secretary wished me well.
The next week I met Jo Bamford, who a few years previously I had met at the film premiere of The Journey. I asked him at our meeting in London would he invest in Ballymena and buy a bus company? His initial response was no. JCB employs thousands of people around the world, he didn't need more employees and his interest is hydro-power.
That link with buses was of interest to him and whilst he was initially reluctant to commit to even considering an investment he did say he would come over and look at the company. That first visit sparked an interest that has resulted in Jo Bamford riding to the rescue of this bus company and saving jobs in Ballymena.
I am delighted for my constituency that a company of such standing and Britishness has invested in the workforce, what a vote of confidence. During the past weeks Jo Bamford will have seen the talented and dignified workforce react to the ups and downs of events.
This is a major new chapter in bus building. This is a future industry of buses being powered by hydro-power that Bamford makes and will revolutionise public transport forever. In fact, if we get this right and government assists with a proper strategy for transport, NI public transport will be the envy of the world and will be the springboard for major changes around the world in public transport arrangements.
I am excited for my constituents to be at the forefront of this and to see a new chapter born out of such uncertainty in recent weeks. In the next few weeks hundreds of men and women will be back to work building the best buses in the world. Thank you Jo Bamford for placing this vote of confidence in this workforce.