Textile firms seeking cash to return to Leicester
Textile firms are looking to repatriate their manufacturing from India and China to Leicester in a move that could create hundreds of jobs.
Six companies which moved their production from the city in the 1990s to cut costs have applied for Government grants to help them move back, reversing a trend stretching back decades.
The businesses are hoping to secure grants of up to £150,000 from an £8 million Regional Growth Fund being administered by Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
LLEP head Mandip Rai said: "These six companies had their production in Leicester in the 1990s but then moved abroad because it was cheaper to produce there.
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"They are now interested in coming back because of the rising costs of wages in those countries and the growing cost of flying goods across the world.
"Comparatively, China and India are not as cheap as they were 20 years ago. We are seeing a huge wave of repatriation for that particular sector."
Mr Rai said there was also a growing kudos associated with a "Made in Britain" label and manufacturers were being attracted by the reputation of the city for fashion and clothing design associated with De Montfort University.
He said: "We are talking about a huge volume of jobs. One of the companies has said it would create 100 jobs.
"The skills of the workforce needed are still in the city."
Mr Rai said he could not reveal the names of the firms looking to relocate until after the bids for cash had been assessed. That is due to happen at the end of March.
He said any company succeeding would have to match the funding and would use the cash for capital costs such as building extensions or buying up-to-date machinery.
Leicester Asian Business Association president Jaspal Singh Minhas said: "Leicester became a very rich city thanks to the textile trade, but there was a point where it was simply cheaper to take their manufacturing to India or China.
"Now, the cost of air freight is going up and companies are having to meet that because they cannot pass it on to retailers. Retailers don't want to wait four or five weeks for their products to arrive from the other side of the world
"Wages are also going up in India and China, so it is not that much more expensive to produce here.
"Textile manufacturing has never entirely left the city and there are lots of small companies making clothes here, but it is encouraging ones that left really want to come back.
"We will never see the big old factories that employed thousands, but there will be operations with 40, 60 or 100 staff."