Tees business leaders have reacted with consternation to the news that Redcar blast furnace is set to close once more.
Alastair Waite, CEO of Altec Engineering
“The decision to mothball the blast furnace is a huge blow for the people of Teesside and also for the thousands employed in providing services.
“The UK economy is growing, infrastructure projects are many and varied, and the government could – and should – find a way to use locally produced UK steel in all projects until the price and/or demand for UK-produced steel picks up.
“If we allow this plant to close, we will have surrendered one of the UK’s key industries to short-term market forces.
“I would urge all to revisit plans, challenge current thinking and find a way to ensure we retain the skills, jobs and hopes of all working at and for SSI today, and all those who have in the past contributed to making Great Britain great.”
Keith Miller, managing director, Ecco Finishing Supplies
“The government should be bending over backwards to sort out this whole sorry mess. They certainly would be doing that if the steelworks were in the Home Counties. Where is the Northern Powerhouse now?
“In my opinion, we should never have allowed overseas investors to come in and do what they’ve done to the crown jewels of our industry. As soon as the government money has run out and the going has got tough, they’ve turned off the lights and run.
“This is our people, our heritage and our history. For centuries we’ve made the best steel in the world. Now we could be left with nothing.
“The whole area will be devastated, not only the many families who’ve worked in that industry for years and years. It’s all the suppliers and sub-suppliers too. This will have a massive impact on local industry.
“We should be protecting this industry. We need someone with passion and balls to say ‘We’re going to fight this.’ We need to find new customers. I’m convinced it could be done if we wanted it enough.”
Stan Higgins, chief executive, NEPIC
“It’s sad to hear that steelmaking on Teesside has once again come to a halt. Hopefully mothballing will not damage the plant too much and the costs of reopening will not be too excessive.
“In a wider context, industries like this need greater integration and ever-increasing industrial symbiosis to make them more efficient and enable them to survive global market shifts.
“The UK economy needs steel for its power stations, its railways and its many manufacturing industries from chemicals and cars to aerospace and defence. Yet the UK has no integrated industrial strategy to ensure that our basic industries can compete. Our competitors have.
“By importing so much steel and other manufactured materials, we give away a good proportion of the value in our manufacturing supply chains.”
Mark Smith, managing director, Stockton Machine Company
“As someone who trades within the industry, I find the decline majorly frustrating. I have known for some time that the company was in difficulty and I base my frustrations on the fact that something wasn’t done sooner to try and save steelmaking on Teesside.
“I’m upset for the thousands of people who will now lose their jobs and the impact this will have on their families and the community as a whole. I am sure every one of us will know someone with whom this will effect, either directly or indirectly.
“This will also have a major knock on effect throughout the region, not only for steelmaking, but for the supply chain as well. I also fear for the local retailers in what are already challenging times for them.
“The government have recently been banding around the term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and appointed a minister to try to redress the imbalance between the north and south. However, I can’t help but feel that if the steelmaking industry was based within the capital city then they would have stopped at nothing to save it. Too often we get overlooked for financial grants and aid in favour of southern industry.
“I just hope the plant and machinery can be saved and that one day steelmaking may return to the site. This won’t happen without intervention for the government or I fear the assets will be broken up and sold abroad to clear debts.”
Mike Matthews, managing director, Nifco UK & president, NECC
“The business community and organisations like the North East Chamber of Commerce will be crucial in ensuring that those affected are supported.”
Martin Barber, managing partner, Evolution Business and Tax Advisors
“We must be allowed to compete on level terms and steel should be the foundation for the Northern Powerhouse. Whose steel will be used to build HS2? It’s a sad indictment that it probably won’t be steel made in the north.”
Garry Lofthouse, director, Applied Integration
“It’s with a heavy heart that we express our disappointment at the planned mothballing of the SSI Redcar steel plant. I’d like to offer my deepest sympathies to all the workers and their families who will no doubt suffer as a result.
“Steelmaking has been at the heart of Teesside industry for decades and losing such a massive site is both a sad and worrying prospect for the whole region. The knock-on effect is massive – with 1,700 job losses and the local communities and local supply chain all set to feel the after-effects.
“I believe that this compounds the North-London imbalance. It’s a real shame that the government and Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton have not stepped in to save the plant.
“With Applied Integration being a member of the supply chain, we were obviously saddened to hear the news, though we reserve all of our considerations to those who are set to lose their jobs as a result. I hope Teesside can stay united throughout this dark hour.”
Zoe Lewis, chief executive and principal, Middlesbrough College
“The announcement is a huge blow for our community and, in particular, so many families whose livelihoods depend on steelmaking in Teesside – an industry with a rich and proud heritage in the region.
“Middlesbrough College has worked with SSI and many of their partners across the Tees Valley for many years.
“Like so many, when SSI acquired the plant in 2011, we looked forward to a future of steelmaking on Teesside and we the hope a way can be found to support SSI as it seeks to endure the most challenging of market conditions.
“In the meantime, we will do everything we can to support those who work for SSI and associated businesses come through this difficult time.”
James Ramsbotham, chief executive, NECC
“We are incredibly disappointed by the news of the mothballing of the Redcar blast furnace, but understand the decision given the huge pressures on the international steel markets. We thank the SSIUK management and staff for working so hard to try to ensure a positive outcome.
“This decision will have a significant impact throughout the region. The business community stands ready to work together to support the company and workforce as we continue to hold the ambition to retain steel-making on Teesside for the future.”
Paul Booth, chair of Tees Valley Unlimited
“Steel has a long and proud heritage in Tees Valley and as a member of the taskforce we will be doing our utmost to find solutions to help those affected.
“All the partners and stakeholders involved in the regeneration of Tees Valley will be further strengthening their resolve to help diversify and develop the local economy and expand the area’s industrial capabilities.”
Chris Petty, managing director, Cornerstone Business Solutions
“It’s a sad day for Teesside with the news of 1,700 people losing their jobs and another possible 500 on the verge.
“This will have a massive knock-on effect as well, not only for the businesses involved in supplying services to SSI but in the whole community of Teesside.
“I used to work there myself many moons ago and have fond memories of the place. Whenever we drive by, I always bore the kids with some of the stories.
“Hopefully this won’t become a place only of fond memories for the many who work there. Hopefully, something can be done.”
Andy Preston, chairman, Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation
“It’s awful news. The mothballing of the Redcar plant has seemed inevitable for some months now – but it’s still painful news when it comes.
“Too few politicians and commentators are focusing on families. They’re talking about politics, economics and history – but not the tragic human side. Today’s news will put tension on families and individuals.
“Successive governments have failed to work a national strategy for the steel industry. If Britain fails to produce strong quantities of steel then it’s at the mercy of other countries and international politics. For issues of national security large-scale steel making must be retained in the UK.
“The UK economy and the Teesside economy are growing. We can find ways to create new jobs for Teesside – thousands of them. To do that, we need modern and intelligent leaders who can win investment and sell Teesside to the outside world.”