Business Secretary Sajid Javid has been announced as headline speaker at the Cutlers’ Feast in Sheffield, in a major coup for the Master Cutler and a sign central government is ‘interested in the North’.
Craig McKay, boss of precision engineering firm Evenort, said he hoped that as well as giving a 15-minute speech on Government plans for the Northern Powerhouse, Mr Javid would listen to him.
As Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Mr Javid is “the most relevant person to us,” Mr McKay added.
The 390-year-old Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire represents manufacturers in Sheffield City Region.
Its annual Feast, at the opulent Cutlers’ Hall on May 19, is a major event in the business calendar which aims to reinforce the importance of the sector.
Mr McKay said: “I’m really pleased, it’s a good signal from Government that it’s interested in Sheffield and the North.
“I would like him to talk about the Northern Powerhouse and say what Government is going to do to assist that process.
“It’s also a good opportunity to introduce him to as many relevant people as possible. And it puts a stamp on our relevance as a business organisation.”
Two years ago the headline speaker was Nick Clegg, the then deputy prime minister.
As Master Cutler, Mr McKay and Mr Javid will sit next to each other.
Mr McKay added: “Hopefully he will be asking me questions about manufacturing. Will he ask me about energy, steel, tax, China, oil and gas and the North Sea? It might be a real eye-opener for him. But he’s my guest, I’m not going to make him uncomfortable.”
As director at Evenort, Mr McKay said he also had specific concerns. The North Anston firm manufactures stainless steel and nickel alloy flange connections used in the oil and gas sector, and subcontracts machining.
He added: “At my company, connectivity is desperately needed, not just road and rail, but broadband.
“Also, the speed of decision making around big infrastructure projects is not quick enough, whether it’s a third runway at Heathrow, HS2, HS3, or nuclear power station Hinkley Point C.
“I’m also concerned about access to contracts from huge government organisations such as the MoD and NHS.
“My company does the best that it can. There are a lot of positive things going on in business at the moment but it’s a very challenging world - my priority is staying in the game and that’s the same for a lot of companies.
“To a certain extent companies need to take responsibility for themselves and not look to Government to solve everything.
“But the Northern economy is desperately behind the mark - we are a cost to the Government so it’s in their interests we do well too.”