Mayor visits major Japanese firms during landmark trade mission

Mayor Ben Houchen has visited the headquarters of major firms which are vital to the Tees Valley economy during his trade mission to Japan.

As part of his first trade mission, Mayor Houchen led a delegation of local businesses to meet senior representatives from automotive plastics producer Nifco, acrylic products manufacturer Mitsubishi Chemicals and biotechnology developer Fujifilm to discuss their future in the North East.

These companies collectively employ nearly 1,500 staff in the region and have ambitious growth plans for further investment.

Mitsubishi Chemicals’ electrolyte plant in Billingham has recently been brought back online.

It produces lithium-ion batteries for the Nissan Leaf that is being assembled in Sunderland, and has plans to double its workforce by 2020.

Fujifilm Diosynth invested £7m in cutting-edge lab facilities at their Wilton-based plant last September, creating 40 new high-level jobs.

Mayor Houchen said: “If we don’t bang the drum for the Tees Valley abroad, nobody else will. That’s why I’m in Japan with a delegation of local businesses to shout about what we have to offer.

“The firms we have met employ thousands in the Tees Valley and I wanted to thank them personally for putting their faith in our economy and our workforce.

“It’s vital that we engage with foreign companies based locally to nurture their investment and underline more opportunities for them in our region.

“This is the Tees Valley’s first trade mission and in speaking to these senior business leaders face-to-face, we have strengthened that bond and secured commitments for further jobs and investment.”

Nifco managing director Mike Matthews said: “I’m pleased that Mayor Houchen has visited Nifco’s Japanese headquarters to continue the friendship we have with the Tees Valley.

“Nifco is an ambitious firm with huge future expansion plans and discussions such as these could help us to move forward and further emphasise the benefits of working in Tees Valley.”

During the meetings, mayor Houchen discussed the potential for further investment in Tees Valley and underlined his commitment to businesses that call the region their home.

He also took the opportunity to provide an update on Brexit negotiations and highlighted the opportunities it could bring for the region, including free zone status and increased business support.

The mission included a visit to a smart city, followed by a tour of a carbon capture and reuse centre. The Mayor met industry experts who have prototype facilities in place capturing carbon.

The Mayor will this evening head to Thailand for 24 hours to join South Tees Development Corporation board members, including Vice Chairs Cllr Sue Jeffrey and Steve Gibson.

Tees mayor and Steve Gibson on Far East trade mission

 

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