Former Manganese Bronze chief to chair West Midlands Manufacturing Consortium

THE former head of black cab manufacturer Manganese Bronze has been named as the new chairman of the West Midlands Manufacturing Consortium, the body which delivers the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the region.

John Russell, who is a former regional chairman of the CBI, is being tasked with helping manufacturing firms in the region achieve their full potential.

Mr Russell, who has also held senior positions at Harley Davidson and Land Rover, said he believed manufacturing firms had a unique opportunity to take advantage of favourable exchange rates, a desire to buy ‘British’ and unrivalled investment in automotive, aerospace, medical and renewables.

The former electrical engineering graduate is keen to use his position at the helm of WMMC to help create the right climate for growth by ensuring manufacturers receive the specialist assistance they need to expand and create jobs.

He said he was determined to harness the innovation and entrepreneurship of West Midlands firms by strengthening thriving relationships between industry and academia so new technologies could be commercialised.

He takes up his new position with plans in place to ensure business support continues to be easier to access, primarily by working closer with organisations such as the EEF, Warwick Manufacturing Group, UKTI, chambers of commerce and the LEPs.

“Manufacturers aren’t looking for hand-outs, they are just looking for help with key issues that are holding them back…this is where I believe we can make a real difference,” said Mr Russell, who played an instrumental role in marketing the launch of the Land Rover Discovery.

“WMMC’s main role is to deliver the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) in the West Midlands, North West and the North East and we’re currently supporting in excess of 4,000 companies ever year.”

Mr Russell has been involved in industry for more than 40 years, starting his career with Unipart, before moving to Peugeot Talbot Motor Co, the Rover Group and a stint in India as CEO of Bombay Dyeing.

His last role was chief executive of Coventry-based Manganese Bronze, where he managed to overcome a difficult period in its history to transfer ownership to the firm’s Chinese joint venture partner Geely, ensuring assembly stayed in Coventry.

One of his other tasks as chairman will be to work with the WMMC board to help the body diversify its core offer and attract new funding and business support projects.

“The early signs are encouraging. We are in the final stages of bidding for a number of ERDF opportunities and currently in the process of developing a self-delivery model where our experienced advisors will be available to engage with companies through a commercial arrangement,” he said.

Lorraine Holmes, chief executive of WMMC, added: “We are delighted to have John Russell on board. His experience in industrial roles across the world, combined with his spell as chairman of CBI West Midlands, makes him the perfect individual to take us forward.”

In addition to John’s appointment, The West Midlands Manufacturing Consortium also welcomes a number of new members to its board.

These include Peter Brookes (WMMC), Richard Halstead, Andrew Buckley (both EEF), Richard Hutchins, Mark Pickering (both Warwick Manufacturing Group) and Harry Reilly, who becomes chair of the Audit Committee.

Together they will be responsible for strengthening the support given to manufacturers and providing a strong and pro-active voice for manufacturing.