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Strong views: Honda employees stage a protest over the planned closure of their Swindon plant, outside the UK Houses of Parliament


such as YTKO, has enabled locals to plan their next move. “[Despite the negative headlines], there is


light at the end of the tunnel,” he notes. “It is sad that the Honda plant is closing, but it has given me a fantastic opportunity to pursue a dream of mine.” Together with a few colleagues, Mr Gratton


will set up a garage called G-Revs, utilising his previous experience from being both a mechanic and working at Honda to do “all kinds” of automotive repairs. “All the support has given me the confi-


dence to pursue this business idea. We have never run a business before, so the help from Honda and YTKO has been crucial,” he adds.


Newbeginnings TobyHawkins, a project director at YTKO, which provides advice and business support for entre- preneurs, and small and medium-sized enter- prises across the UK, has been helping workers and businesses through the transition. “Our support is available to anyone


affected,” he says, adding that services cover everything from skills development and CV writing, to housing and financial assistance.He notes that many Honda workers are over the age of 50, making them more likely to explore future self-employment than their younger counterparts in less stable financial situations. “Flexibility and client-centred support is


essential. We need to work closely with individ- uals to understand their goals and educate them on the local market, particularly given the impact of Covid-19,” he adds. Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), a public–private body


June/July 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


that sets the economic priorities for the local area, has allocated £2.4m towards YTKO and other organisations to provide support services for Honda’semployees and suppliers. Elsewhere, a roadmap has been laid out


for Swindon’s future, including the Kimmerfields regeneration scheme, which will see a long-vacated 20-acre brownfield site redeveloped between the town’s railway sta- tion and retail core, including proposals for a new cultural quarter. In June 2020, Switzerland-based Zurich


Insurance announced plans for a new office in the Kimmerfields development, with a new building for its 950-strong workforce due for completion in 2022. John Keppel, Zurich Insurance’s UK chief


operating officer, says that Swindon has an important skill base for the company’s life insurance business, adding that the town’s geo- graphical position, transport connections and diversity of large employers make it an attrac- tive place to invest. “Swindon has a lot to offer, with or without


Honda.It’sunfortunateforthecommunity to lose amajor employer, but I think communities such as Swindon have recovered from far more sub- stantial shocks,” he says, adding that the town prides itselfonlowlevels ofunemployment. In 2020, Swindon had an unemployment


rate of 3.9%, which is below the UK average of 4.6%, according toONS estimates.


Supply chain impacts Even with Swindon’s broad-based economy, including financial services, pharmaceuticals and logistics, Honda’s supply chain is set to be hit hard by the carmaker’s departure. Mr


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