Two representatives of the United States Embassy got a taste of Teesside during a fact-finding mission to the area thanks to a determined charity leader.
Anneliese Reinemeyer and Geraldine Butler-Wright, sent to the North East by the London-based US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, originally visited only Tyneside to get a feel for the North East.
It was only when Kelly Bainbridge, manager of Middlesbrough-based autism charity MAIN, persuaded the pair to visit Teesside that they headed for the area.
And Middlesbrough-based businessman and charity leader Andy Preston also organised for the delegates to meet local businesses including Psyche fashion boss Steve Cochrane.
Anneliese and Geraldine took in a whistle-stop tour of the Wilton Centre, Redcar seafront and Middlesbrough town centre as part of their visit.
Now their Teesside findings will go into a report for Mr Barzun, President Obama’s man in Grosvenor Square, to get a full understanding of the whole of the UK.
Kelly explains: “I was invited to meet two US Embassy delegates at the Sage in Newcastle and they told me they were on a fact-finding mission in the North East.
“I immediately told them that if they were visiting Tyneside, they had to visit Teesside as well, to get a full understanding of the whole area and to make sure they could see what was happening in our area.
“Too often Teesside is overlooked in favour of Tyneside and I felt it was important for them to come here.
“They showed a great interest and quickly took me up on the offer, asking for me to arrange a day around Teesside, to meet business leaders and charities and visit local landmarks.
“We took them to the Wilton Centre to get an understanding of how important the petrochemical industry is to Teesside, and we were given a guided tour of the centre which was fantastic.
“We then took them to Redcar, to see some of the fantastic regeneration work that’s been done there.
They were hugely impressed by the new promenade at Redcar, but unfortunately it was 10am and they weren’t able to sample a lemon top!”
After visiting Redcar, local businessman Andy Preston arranged for the US delegates to go to Middlesbrough town centre, where they visited the award-winning Psyche fashion store and the new Twisted Lip real ale bar on Baker Street.
They met Psyche managing director Steve Cochrane together with Twisted Lip co-owner Erika Saul, Mark Easby from Better Brand Agency, Ian McPherson of digital studio Big Bite Creative and Lee Hutchinson and Kimberley Turner from video game developer Double Eleven.
Kelly added: “They were really impressed with what Teesside has to offer and I’m just pleased that we didn’t miss out on this great opportunity.
“Mr Barzun has said that England is more than just about London and Westminster, and so he sent Anneliese and Geraldine around the whole of the country to gather a report.
“We don’t know what that report is going to look like yet and what it might mean for Teesside. It might contribute towards more trading with the US or more tourism opportunities, but I just felt it would have been criminal for them not to see what Teesside has to offer.
“Their overall impression of the area was very good – they didn’t get chance to try a Teesside Parmo, but Geraldine was going to have a go at making one!”
Mr Preston, founder of the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, praised Kelly, saying: “The UK is about far more than London. Politicians and civil servants need to understand that – and it’s pleasing to see that the US Embassy seem to do so.
“In a similar way, the North East isn’t just Tyneside. But it’s no good us just whinging about it. We need people out there – business leaders and activists – to drag the politicians and decision-makers here, not just sulk when we don’t get the visits.
“Kelly did a great job getting them here. They left with a really strong impression of our business scene.”
• Pictured (above): US Embassy delegates Anneliese Reinemeyer (left) and Geraldine Butler-Wright (fourth left) meet local businesspeople including Middlesbrough charity leaders Kelly Bainbridge (third left) and Andy Preston (fourth right) at the Twisted Lip bar on Baker Street in Middlesbrough.