It is time for Wrexham to unite to declare the town as the capital of North Wales.
That was the message from Ken Skates, Welsh Government cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure, who said that moving forward, Wrexham has the opportunity to become a “really good, prosperous, united place to live and work”.
Mr Skates, Labour Assembly Member for Clwyd South, said the hotly debated prison on Wrexham Industrial Estate had “over delivered” in its first year of operations while the proposed multi-million pound arts hub could change “the fabric and reputation of a community”.
The cabinet secretary even had praise for Dean Keates’ Wrexham AFC squad who continue their push for promotion to the Football League.
Asked whether the investment in business and infrastructure in Wrexham made it the de-facto capital of the region, Mr Skates said: “Yes, I believe it’s time everybody unites in Wrexham to declare it the capital of North Wales.
“It’s a fact that it’s the largest urban conurbation in North Wales, it’s probably got the best known football team and in this day and age, if you want to project yourself positively around the globe, have a good sporting team.
“Looking at how Wrexham are performing this season and touch wood, we’re heading in the right direction.
“I think it’s important for Wrexham to have confidence and for us in Welsh Government to make sure Wrexham has the tools to attract high quality jobs and to be able to deliver better prospects.”
The cabinet secretary said the announcement of millions of pounds of investment into the town’s infrastructure in road, rail and business highlighted Welsh Government’s commitment to making Wrexham a more prosperous place to live and work.
He said: “The announcement of £10m for improvements at Wrexham General and in the town centre, improvements to other stations as well, the delivery of the metro, resolving junction problems on the A483, the development bank, Hotpak, the incubation hub that’s going to create more than 200 jobs and more than 100 new businesses – this is all about Welsh Government giving Wrexham as much opportunity as possible to become a really good, prosperous, united place to live and work.”
Economy secretary Mr Skates said the controversial HMP Berwyn on Wrexham Industrial Estate had been “a success” for the local economy and felt that opposition to the facility had died down since its official opening in February.
He said: “It’s quite interesting looking at the statistics for the prison and in many respects its over delivery.
“Compared to the targets in terms of employment opportunities and contracts for local businesses, the development of the prison has over delivered and that’s something we should really welcome.
“I know it was controversial when it was first proposed, I know it hasn’t been without controversy during its development, but I don’t detect now much opposition to it being in Wrexham and that probably indicates that it has been a success for the local economy as well.”
Mr Skates, who has since passed on the portfolios of culture and tourism to Lord Thomas, said the £4.5m arts hub, which will open next year in the People’s Market needed to be “sustainable” but had the potential to bring real change.
“In considering any spend of this magnitude, you have to have a rock solid business case and ensure what you’re proposing is sustainable,” he said.
“If both of those can be met, you can deliver something that changes the fabric and reputation of a community and I hope this is the case with the arts hub.”