Over the past 10 years, Northamptonshire has developed a reputation for being full of logistics depots and warehouses.
Industry chiefs have talked about the high proportion of low-paid, low-skilled manual jobs and the difficulty in keeping graduates in the county after they finish university.
But this could all be about to change.
A new report suggests Northamptonshire is seeing the emergence of a high performance technology cluster with a growing number of high-tech engineering companies.
While the county is well known for its motorsport expertise, the report by Northamptonshire Enterprise has identified nearly 1,500 businesses operating in high performance technologies in the county, including aerospace, defence, low carbon automotive, motorsport, marine, construction and electronics.
These companies employ around 21,000 people and contribute around £9bn to the UK economy each year.
Tim Bagshaw, head of investment at Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, said: “The county’s strength in motorsport is well recognised, but we have noticed an increasingly wider application of these skills to other areas of business.
“The report confirms the full extent of this diversification, outlining the cluster of high performance technology expertise that has developed in our region. It also makes it clear that there is huge potential for the industry going forward, and I’m sure there are plenty of businesses operating in the sector that we are not yet aware of.
“The county has, over the years, developed a workforce with specialist skills, a number of world-class facilities and has positioned itself as a hub of expertise in high performance technologies.”
This cluster of high-tech engineering companies also creates more opportunities for engineering graduates, both those graduating here in Northamptonshire and those who might come here for work.
Julia Schumacher, business partnership manager for Northamptonshire Enterprise, said: “We are working with a range of partners to raise awareness locally of the exciting opportunities available within high performance technologies, particularly for young people in engineering and linked emerging technologies.
“By working closely with industry, the University of Northampton and the new Silverstone University Technical College (due to open in 2013), Northamptonshire is perfectly placed to attract and retain young talent into the county and support the rapid growth predicted for this sector over the coming years.”
Northamptonshire Enterprise has now established a steering group made up of experts from the industry to support businesses in the sector, such as mentoring and funding advice.