A WREXHAM councillor has taken over as the new leader of the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA).

Cllr Mark Pritchard, leader of Wrexham Council, has taken over as chair of the cross-border partnership, which supports business, jobs and infrastructure across North East Wales, West Cheshire and Wirral, and had a simple message to mark the start of his term, which is 'we are stronger together'.

Cllr Pritchard will lead the partnership over the next two years, building on the work of his predecessor, cllr Louise Gittins of Cheshire West and Chester, and will be supported by vice chair, cllr Stuart Whittingham of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

The aim will be to further develop the economic potential of key employment sites across the region.

These include Wirral Waters (part of Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone), Deeside Enterprise Zone, Wrexham Industrial Estate and Technology Park, Chester and Ellesmere Port (part of the Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone).

With the right investment, it is thought these sites could create up to 50,000 new jobs over the next 15 to 20 years.

To help release this untapped potential, the MDA will focus on four key areas, cross-border transport connectivity, skills and employment, digital infrastructure and low carbon/clean growth.

Cllr Pritchard said: "The region is already very successful in economic terms.

"But if we want to build on that, and encourage more investment, we need to make progress with these four key areas.

"Better transport links – both road and rail – will be absolutely crucial to support business operations and supply chains.

"They’ll also make it easier for people to commute – providing more job opportunities and helping firms tap into the wider workforce.

"We also need to support the right skills within our communities.

"That’s a key factor in persuading employers to invest and create jobs."

He also stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of good digital infrastructure for both regional and national economies.

He said: "Now more than ever, businesses need the internet to survive and thrive.

"First class digital connectivity is no longer an optional extra - it’s an absolute must.

"Finally, we need to make sure that economic growth in the Mersey Dee region is kind to the environment.

"It needs to be clean and low carbon.

"That’s really important for quality of life, and again a key factor in attracting investment."

Established in 2007, the MDA is a strong and experienced partnership, which influences key decision-makers to attract investment to the area.

It generates around £21.8bn GVA per annum, and is important to both the Welsh and English economies.

It has a high concentration of advanced manufacturing, and important clusters of energy, aerospace, automotive, engineering, chemical and food processing industries, as well as professional and financial services.

Major employers include Airbus, Tata, Toyota, Vauxhall, JCB, Unilever, Cammell Laird, Bank of America, Essar, Encirc and Iceland Foods.

Cllr Pritchard added: "I’m looking forward to representing the MDA and helping to make sure the region’s best interests are supported.

"Wrexham, Cheshire, Wirral and Flintshire are wonderful places in their own right, with their own unique identities.

"But we also have an incredibly strong economic bond, and our voice is so much more powerful and persuasive when we work together.

"With so many talented and committed organisations and individuals, the MDA can continue to secure investment for the region.

"It’s a challenging time for the UK economy, but I’m excited about the future."