A multi-millionaire former billion pound hedge fund manager is warning that Teesside is being left dangerously behind other areas of the UK when it comes to investing to businesses.
Businessman Andy Preston is calling for the appointment of an ‘investment guru’ for Teesside as he claims says that local businesses are not getting the financial backing they need.
Former Middlesbrough mayoral candidate Mr Preston said: “I can think of three excellent candidates for the role who would do an amazing job,” before adding: “Definitely not me though! I am too busy with other projects right now.”
He made the announcement after almost trebling his investment in the buy-out of Teesside internet firm, Thap.
Three years after investing in Wynyard-based Thap, Mr Preston has sold his original £70,000 investment in the software development specialists for £190,000.
But he warned that there are not enough similar success stories on a local level and called on Stockton South MP James Wharton, the Northern Powerhouse minister, to take action.
“Teesside is losing ground while areas like Tyneside are building international reputations for enterprise and energy,” he said.
“They’re beating Teesside hands down for jobs and prosperity. We need to put that right – fast!
“What James Wharton, as a government minister, needs to do is to help establish a Teesside forum, led by a true expert in the field, dedicated to bringing together local investors and firms that can take off if they get a cash injection.
“I love playing a part in helping Teesside business to grow and hire staff. Thap are so successful that they now have many staff based in Dubai as well as locally.”
Mr Preston, who runs several businesses and charities in Middlesbrough’s Boho Zone, also has investments in a number of other successful Teesside start-ups.
“This certainly wasn’t my biggest investment or my most successful,” he continued. “But it’s a great illustration of just what can be achieved for Teesside businesses. We just need more local backing.”
Now he wants to see Mr Wharton take steps to ensure Teesside isn’t left permanently behind when it comes to local business investment.
He said: “While I’m pleased that local politicians are making the right noises about local investment, the truth is that politicians and public sector employees are never going to change Teesside.
“There’s a real chance to create jobs and prosperity on Teesside if we get this right. I’m confident that thousands of jobs could be created on Teesside over the next decade but right now we’re missing out – and time is running out.
“To put that right, we need experts, not bureaucrats. We need an appointed expert with genuine first-hand experience and passion for investment.
“At the same time, I am certain more companies would consider relocating to Teesside if they knew there was an infrastructure for Teesside here.
“There are people out there with money and there are people and firms out there who need money. It’s not a role for me, but someone needs to be appointed to bring that together and make it all happen.”
The Middlesbrough-born entrepreneur, who has also invested in Middlesbrough firms SocialRel8, experts in customer service software solutions, fast-growing teaching programme Sound Training and 3D animation specialists Animmersion, believes more wealthy individuals need to step forward to boost businesses.
“Certainly small business owners need to learn how and where to ask for money but more importantly local people who have money need to show local patriotism, step forward and make intelligent investments,” he said.
“There are high risks with new companies, of course, but there are also potentially high rewards for those who invest in our talented young business people.
“My message to those who are fortunate enough to have money is to stop squirreling it away and start investing.
“Investment is needed to fuel creativity and encourage a culture of innovation. We have some brilliant talent on Teesside but these people and their young businesses need backing financially.”