Siemens prefer to do their business in the boardroom, not in snappy sound bites
LET'S be honest, if Siemens were flirting with the idea of pulling out of its planned vast Hull wind turbine plant, boss Matthew Chinn could have come up with an excuse not to speak at a packed KC Stadium dinner on Friday night.
Siemens prefer not to shout about their plans, they do their business in the boardroom and in the accounts department. They don't deal in snappy sound bites. A company that makes around £4bn profit a year doesn't really need to.
So for a cheerful Mr Chinn, head of energy for UK and North West Europe, to talk at the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner was something of a vote of confidence in the future, a welcome reassurance that the "elephant in the room" as he described it, isn't a carcass being picked at by vultures.
And his message? Yes, Siemens still wants to build a wind turbine assembly plant in Hull. Yes, it could place Hull at the centre of a new industry unparalleled since the oil boom. Yes, it could open up a world of possibilities for young people. Yes, he's working with the right people in Hull. But no, he's not going to say when it will start.
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There's still a lot of work to do. And the Government still has to convince Siemens that it's backing the revolution in green energy. Only then will Mr Chinn's people start welding anything together.
To be honest, even if Mr Chinn had turned up with a shovel and started digging the foundations, there would still be some doubt that this factory will ever be built. The wave of anticipation and excitement more than a year ago when Siemens first said it liked the idea of a factory in Hull has been replaced with a more rational, realistic sense of hope, bordering on, don't say it too loud, slight scepticism.
Mr Chinn's speech was all about scale. He reminded us how big these wind turbines and blades are – think the height of Gherkin tower block in London and the diameter of the Olympic stadium. He told us about the massive infrastructure, onshore and offshore, that needs to be in place to construct and service these wind farms – there's just one ship in the world that can lift some of the pieces. And he told us Siemens is about creating industries, not single factories.
And there in an impressive series of slides showing giant pieces of Siemens steel being bolted together was the hidden message. You don't make this stuff – the turbines, the factories, the industries, the careers – in a few months. You certainly don't do it as a gamble. You do it when you know someone's going to buy the stuff at the end of it all. And that's why Siemens makes profits in the billions. It backs winners.
For Hull, the stakes look good. But it's not an odds-on winner and it's a heck of a long race.