Attempts to turn the Isle of Wight into an economic powerhouse and global manufacturing centre to rival the Republic of China have foundered with the closure of Shanklin’s only iPod factory.
Deidre Ainsworth, head of the Isle of Wight Development Agency, still believes that the island can become what he calls the ‘Wight Tiger’ to rival the Pacific Rim economies or India and China, but she has been criticized for giving grants to overwhelmed pensioner groups, assuring them that they could help make the Isle of Wight the digital powerhouse of the West.
‘Sure the closure of the island’s only iPod factory is a blow. People are saying I shouldn’t have set up an advanced micro-technology plant in an old people’s home. Well, of course it’s very easy to say that now.’
In global terms the electronic assembly plant was a small concern, with one iPod being put together every couple of weeks in a former post office. The Isle of Wight’s business start up grants have more traditionally been for Bed and Breakfasts, Teas Rooms and Gift Shops but Deidre Ainsworth believed the island needed to move with the times; ‘Japan is an island and look what they achieved making radios and suchlike after the war.’
However the experiment suggests that the Isle of Wight’s population may not have the skill sets required for cutting edge technology development. ‘All our residents are retired folk who struggle with all this advanced digital business’ said day-care nurse Jennifer Carter, at the Shanklin Sea View retirement home where the doomed iPod factory was located. ‘They can’t read the tiny instruction booklets even with their glasses. They want to play carpet bowls, drink tea and have an afternoon nap, they don’t want to be assembling iPods at their age.’
Deidre Ainsworth however is undeterred. ‘I believe the Isle of Wight could be the new Vegas.’ Pole dancing auditions start on Monday.