WORKERS at Wrexham's Sharp (UK) Manufacturing complex are celebrating after the Japanese multi-national announced it is boosting operations at the Llay site.
The firm has chosen Wrexham to manufacture solar energy products from spring 2004, creating at least 45 new jobs and doubling that figure by 2005.
Sharp is currently setting up an assembly plant at Llay which will produce solar modules for residential, commercial and industrial installations - the first such plant in Europe.
The firm's administration, safety and training manager, Steve Crewe, who has worked at the plant since the company began manufacturing in the town in 1984, says everyone at the firm is thrilled with the news.
He said: 'It's a huge boost. We will be building two panel types, a 72-cell panel, which will produce 175 watts of energy, and a smaller 48-cell version which will produce 160 watts.
'We expect solar energy to really take off in the near future and this will be the first plant in Europe producing these panels.' He added: 'When I first came here in 1984 there were sheep grazing on the site. I've been lucky enough to see the company develop its operations here. At first we produced video recorders and then microwave ovens. At the present time we have two factories, one solely producing microwaves andtheotheris setupreadyto start producing the solar panels.
'We are expecting delivery of manufacturing equipment in February 2004 at which time a training programme for staff will begin. But it really is a huge boost for the work force and shows the confidence the company has in its Wrexham workers.'
And the news has been warmly welcomed by Wrexham councillors and leading politicians.
Lead member for economic development Cllr Neil Rogers, said: 'This is good news for the manufacturing sector in Wrexham. With recent announcements that Sony is cutting 20,000 jobs globally, to see a company like Sharp expanding and bringing new jobs into Wrexham is very good news.'
The council's business development manager, Peter Scott, said: 'This new investment is testimony to the quality of the Wrexham workforce. This project has been won against stiff competition from other European locations. Sharp have worked extremely hard to make this happen.'
Wrexham's MP Ian Lucas said: 'The trump card in the many months of negotiation that led to this decision was the excellent Llay workforce. They are, I believe, the reason why this new industry will now be based in Wrexham.'
Dr John Marek, AM for Wrexham said: 'Making solar cells means the company is investing in new and developing technology. This is crucial as it means Sharp sees its Wrexham factory as having a future. With this new plant starting up, employment in the town is guaranteed for many years and that's great news.'