Siemens boss praises Hull's 'green dream team' and insists plans still on track
SIEMENS plans for a huge wind turbine plant in Hull are still on track, one of the engineering giant's top bosses has insisted.
Matthew Chinn, Siemens' head of energy for UK and North West Europe, said the Green Port Hull development will happen - if the right levels of support continued, not just in Hull but, crucially, from central Government.
And he said he had every confidence in his "dream team in Hull" including partner Associated British Ports, MPs and Hull City Council.
Mr Chinn said: "There are a lot of people working really hard on a very interesting and exciting project.
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"I have done a lot of projects in my time. I have been with Siemens for 25 years and have never worked with a dream team like this one with support from politicians such as Alan Johnson, and from Hull City Council and ABP.
"If everything comes together, and the support from government, Hull City Council and partners continues, I think we will get there."
Mr Chinn's speech at the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce dinner at the KC Stadium on Friday, were welcomed by ABP and MPs.
It was the first time Mr Chinn has spoken publicly in Hull about the plans, and his comments were seen as a huge boost, particularly by those who have assumed the relative silence from the energy giant over its plans for the city meant Green Port Hull would not happen.
Putting into context the scale of the project, and why the company is working hard to ensure any project it embarks on is delivered, and delivered properly, he said: "We are not building a restaurant; we are actually creating a whole new industry here.
"But it is an extremely complicated and will take time."
Mr Chinn said it was crucial to ensure the major project, which could lead to 800 jobs with experts suggesting another 10,000 could be created in the supply chain, got off on the right foot, right from the outset.
He said: "One reason we have to take it steadily and get through all of these issues is because we have to do it right and it has got to be sustainable.
"When you are a corporation like Siemens, nobody remembers if you create jobs, they only remember the jobs you lay off.
"We are not in that game."
Mr Chinn pointed out the rising demand for electricity meant creating sustainable and affordable sources was becoming more and more crucial.
And he said he was excited to be at the forefront of a new industry which could achieve these goals – and one which Hull could very much play a significant part in.
"There are lots of headlines about renewables but this is a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"We are very much pioneering a new industry," he said.
"If you get it right, it will be very exciting, not just for England but for Europe and the rest of the world, because what we are building will be sustainable and affordable.
"That is what Green Port Hull is all about – supporting an entire industry."
Siemens currently employs more than 1,000 in renewables-related roles, however Mr Chinn said this figure was set to double over the next few years.
"We have already increased our number of apprenticeships," he added.
"It is a great opportunity to give real sustainable high quality jobs to people, which is why I am so pleased to have this team in Hull because I believe we can make it happen."
Mr Chinn spoke at the dinner after being invited by the chamber president Matt Jukes.
As ABP port director for Hull and Goole, Mr Jukes has been heavily involved with the Green Port Hull proposals and said he was delighted the Siemens executive had given up his time to speak to business people in the Humber.
And it was noted that while heavy snow had prevented some guests from travelling to Hull from remote parts of the East Riding, Mr Chinn had travelled across the country to attend the event on Friday.
He said: "It was a real feather in our cap to secure the head of energy at Siemens in the UK and North West Europe, and I am really pleased he was able to come along."
Commenting on the apparent lack of official announcements over the past few months, Mr Jukes said: "Are we making progress? Yes, we are.
"We have been moving forward over the past 18 months.
"While it may not, I accept, have been visible at times, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
"We really have the opportunity to deliver something that will be a catalyst for our region.
"We still have some way to go, but we are on the right road."
Video: The world's largest rotor blade, at 75 meters, constructed by Siemens. These will be similar in size to the blades for the giant wind turbine farms which would be assembled in Hull by Siemens.
Mr Jukes pointed out the Humber was already a hub for energy, with a quarter of the UK's oil refining capacity based here as well as a heavy emphasis on coal.
He said renewable energy would add further significance to the Humber's role in keeping the country's lights on.
"Geography has given us here in the Humber an ace in our hand," he said.
"Now we have a foot in the door, so to speak, we need to have support from others, and by that I mean having national Government on board.
"We have a vision. Now we need to get our voices heard.
"It is not just about being in the queue; we have to be at the head of the queue."
Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson, who has been heavily involved in the deal and was at the event on Friday, said he felt bouyed by Mr Chinn's speech.
He said: "I was optimistic before I heard Matthew's speech. His speech has reinforced my optimism that Siemens will come to Hull.
"One of the biggest hurdles was the energy bill. Now that has been published it has removed one of the major barriers.
"One of the biggest things to come out of the speech was the way he described the efforts of Hull and the use of the word dream team.
"He concluded saying he was confident we can finalise the contract which is very encouraging.
"It was a very enlightening speech. He made sure everyone understood this isn't opening a new restaurant, it is a new industry."
Hull East MP Karl Turner, who also attended, said he was also optimistic.
He said: "The fact Matthew was there to address to us is a great indication of Siemens intentions to come to Hull.
"He was very realistic about the proposals and very honest that this is about long-term sustainability.
"He finished with a slide showing a group of kids saying this is young people looking for work. He wants to make sure people like that find good sustainable, high-paid, high-quality work. That was the positive message of the night for me.
"Until the contract is signed we cannot say, but I am optimistic and confident Siemens will come to Hull."