EXCLUSIVE: Business reaction to Heseltine report

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A powerful vision or bureaucratic waffle? Teesside business leaders react to Lord Heseltine’s report, “Tees Valley – Opportunity Unlimited”.

Andy Preston, investor and charity leader
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“Teesside needs the government’s attention but I think that this massive and expensive report has all the hallmarks of bureaucratic waffle. Much of its content is bloody obvious. Saying things should be ‘seriously investigated’ is so non-committal that it’s worthy of a comedy sketch.
“The Government received such bad press when SSI closed that they needed to be seen to do something – anything. Well, what they’ve done is commission a vastly expensive PR exercise. Sorry for being blunt but I think that’s the truth.”

Ian Stark, CEO, Chemoxy International

“It was wonderful to see Teesside and the Tees Valley getting so much positive nationwide and international publicity on the back of Lord Heseltine’s report. He’s absolutely right in saying that we are a “can-do” region.
“Let’s embrace the key themes from the report and deliver industrial and urban regeneration, infrastructure improvements and promote our region for leisure and tourism. Let’s be innovative, promote the skills and education agenda, and reinvent our region.
“Ignore the dinosaurs and doom merchants who live in the past – the Tees Valley has great potential. Kudos to Lord Heseltine and all of the team involved with the report.”

Martin Barber, managing partner, Evolution Business and Tax Advisors
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“The report is great as a powerful vision of what might be achieved, a blueprint for regional success. It’s short on the practicalities of achieving the plan and that means hard cash.
“In an era of spending cuts and no meat yet the bones of the Northern Powerhouse, it might be seen as a series of platitudes, but in a region that has always prided itself on its enterprising spirit and fortitude, we don’t need to be told how to achieve greater prosperity. We need to be given the wherewithal to create a bigger and better Tees Valley. We know that with the right investment we can deliver.”

Bill Scott, CEO, Wilton Engineering

Middlesbrough teesside Philanthropic Foundation first Teesside Unsung Hero Award.
“Firstly, I have to say I welcome any report which focuses on Teesside, whether it be good or not so good. Teesside is a passionate place when it comes to business and my experiences have always been positive in terms of businesses working collaboratively to solve anything that is thrown at them.
“I believe Lord Heseltine’s report to be informative and balanced, albeit a lot of the content is already known, but it’s great to see it written down within a single document. To action his comments, we need a strategy which empowers people, combined with enough money and a desire to make things happen for the better.
“Clearly there is a lot to do and a realistic timetable needs to be set, picking off the big ticket wins and the low hanging fruit. Everyone will have different opinions. However, we should all agree that this should be seen as an opportunity we should all get behind.”

Steve Duffield, site director, Wilton Centre

“I was pleasantly surprised by the report. The content shows that input from key local stakeholders has really been listened to and is in line with what local business leaders were wanting to achieve.
“It is strongly focused on how to develop the region and it recognises that there is a great deal of enthusiasm and a strong will within the Tees Valley to move things forward and develop the area.
“It is also good to have the acknowledgement that the Tees Valley region needs its own identity to prevent it being swallowed up within the all-embracing and Tyneside-centric ‘North East’ label.”

Joanna Wake, managing director, RAW Digital Training
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“The report rightly shows what we do amazingly well. It shows gaps in low rates of enterprise, and education and skills, which I hope will be deservedly addressed.
“The standout statement for me is ‘The scale of traditional industry decline needs to be counteracted’. I believe the skills shortage in digital, tech and ICT to be the way. It’s exciting to have Government support for a regional tech college. With a 70% increase in vacancies within the digital sector yet 65% of employers within it struggling to recruit, the time to act is now.
“Let’s be pioneers, innovators, and game-changers again.”

Matt Johnson, development director, Wynyard Park
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“I’m pleased that the North-East, and specifically Teesside, is being recognised by the Government. But while vocal support is welcome, it needs to be followed up on with action. The foundations are already in place in our area, in the shape of a skilled and dedicated workforce, to create a more vibrant and bustling economy.”

Bryan Bunn, managing director, Nortech Group
Bryan Bunn“Tees Valley has some of the world’s greatest engineering skills, and we are wholeheartedly supportive of the drive to maximise the economic benefit for the region through investing in its skills and promoting the Tees Valley as THE place to invest for the world’s best businesses.”

Rachel Anderson, head of policy and representation, NECC
“We welcome Lord Heseltine’s fair assessment of Tees Valley’s economy as it stands and realise there can be no silver bullet in terms of a quick fix. We also welcome the challenges he has set for us with regard to education, business and partnership working to help our economy thrive.
“Lord Heseltine promised to open doors in Whitehall for the Tees Valley and there is already evidence this is happening. His vision and recommendations should be deliverable with all of the organisations and businesses working together. Although we recognise this is just the start of the process, it is positive.”


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