Tiny ray of hope for UK's high-tech sector

Summary:British PC builder bucks the trend by creating new jobs in Scotland, but denies rumours that the government gave it a grant in return

UK PC maker Tiny has bucked the trend and announced that it is moving its manufacturing operations into Britain.

The company announced on Tuesday that it has decided to stop making PCs in China, and will build them in Scotland instead. It has signed a five-year, £200m contract with Fullarton Computer Industries, and expects that the first unit will roll off the production line by the end of August.

Tiny believes that the move will give its operations more flexibility. "We want to be able to change our manufacturing to cope with changes in demand. This new factory will be able to build up to 3,500 PCs per day", a Tiny spokeswoman said.

The Scottish factory that Tiny is moving into has been used to build PCs for other companies in the past. Tiny told ZDNet that around 160 new jobs will be created because of the move, in an area where other high-tech firms have recently laid staff off. "It's good that those who have felt the pain of redundancy might now have the chance of a new job," said the company spokeswoman, who added that Fullarton would handle the actual recruitment policy.

Those without a techie background shouldn't be put off from applying, though. "Anyone can be trained to put a computer together, even me," the spokeswoman added.

Politicians in both Scotland and Westminster welcomed the news. E-commerce minister Douglas Alexander was pleased to see that Tiny saw the UK as a good place to base its operations. "This decision should send out a clear message to the global IT industry that the UK has the skilled people and infrastructure necessary to maintain and grow high technology operations."

Wendy Alexander, the minister for enterprise and lifelong learning at the Scottish parliament, felt that Tiny's move was reassuring in the light of recent job losses. UK workers have not been immune to the slowdown in the technology sector, and Scotland has been particularly badly hit. Over 3000 Motorola workers were made redundant earlier this year, while Compaq has also cut jobs north of the border.

There have been suggestions that Tiny will receive government grants in return for moving to Scotland, but the company denied this. "There have been no grants, this is totally an in-house operation," the spokeswoman said. "Our sales, head office and engineering operations are all based in the UK, so it makes sense to have the manufacturing here as well."

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