6,500 enterprise zone jobs in pipeline, says Wales' first minister
The first minister has said there are 6,500 jobs "in the pipeline" in Welsh enterprise zones.
Carwyn Jones' comments came as he announced accountancy firm Deloitte will create 100 jobs in the Cardiff zone over the next three years.
He also announced a cut in interest rates charged on new loans from Finance Wales for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
Welsh Conservatives say the enterprise zones still have "a long way to go".
At his monthly press conference, the first minister defended his Welsh government's enterprise zone policy saying they "are the envy of the rest of the UK".Financial services
End Quote Carwyn Jones First Minister
Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone is helping to enhance the city's position as a capital location for professional business services”
There are seven enterprise zones in Wales, each dedicated to nurture specific industries.
Companies have access to a range of benefits, including business rate relief, enhanced capital allowances, skills support, superfast broadband, bespoke infrastructure projects and simplified planning rules.
Carwyn Jones said almost 2,000 jobs have been created across the seven zones, with a further 6,500 planned, 3,000 of them in the Cardiff zone.
Located in the centre of the capital, a further 100 jobs are set to be created in the zone dedicated to financial services as financial advisory firm Deloitte's is set to expand.
Deloitte will set up the Cardiff Centre of Excellence to support its International Assignment Services, helping employers meet tax compliance.'Hugely encouraged'
End Quote Nick Ramsay AM Shadow Minister for Business
This is extremely welcome news - and long overdue”
The Welsh government has invested £170,000 into the project, which will centralise client administration and support.
Carwyn Jones welcomed the news at the firm's Cardiff headquarters.
"This latest expansion which is set to create 100 jobs in Cardiff sends out a strong message that Wales is becoming the location of choice for companies operating in the professional and financial services sector that are looking to grow their business," he said.
"I am hugely encouraged that Cardiff has been selected and confident this latest project will build on the success of their quality and risk operations team in Cardiff.
"Wales is the first place in the UK with an enterprise zone dedicated to this sector and Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone is helping to enhance the city's position as a capital location for professional business services."
Shadow Minister for Business Nick Ramsay AM, said: "This is extremely welcome news - and long overdue.
"Progress on the Labour government's enterprise zone in Cardiff has been disappointingly slow - and today's announcement is a step in the right direction.Cheaper loans
"In the two years since this zone's announcement, very little has been announced and very few details released.
"There is a long way to go on every enterprise zone in Wales and I am pleased that some progress is finally being made."
The first minister also announced SMEs in enterprise zones will receive a 2% reduction in interest rates charged on new loans from Finance Wales - the Welsh government's investment bank.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats called on the Welsh government to look at the bank's interest rates more widely.
Eluned Parrott AM, said: "This announcement will be welcomed by small and medium sized businesses planning on investing in Enterprise Zones, however, questions still have to be answered as to why Finance Wales's interest rates are higher than they need to be across the country.
"I do hope that the Welsh Government will look seriously at the interest rates it is offering through Finance Wales across the country, and take action to ensure that its rates are comparable with the market not unnecessarily expensive for companies who are trying to create wealth and encourage growth."
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Wales said the announcement raises some questions.
FSB Welsh Policy Unit chair Janet Jones said: "The announcement of a 2% cut in rates from Finance Wales for businesses in Welsh enterprise zones is welcome, but rather perplexing.
"The Welsh government's own report into access to finance by Professor Dylan Jones-Evans noted that Finance Wales' interest rates were often well above their regulatory requirements.
"FSB Wales agrees with that assessment, and this announcement suggests that there is more flexibility in Finance Wales' setting of its interest rates than was previously stated.
"In the light of this announcement we would call for Finance Wales to re-examine its rates as it appears that state aid rules do not require rates to be as high as they are at present," she added.