Ben Houchen has met leading business chiefs in South Korea and visited more international firms central to the Tees Valley economy on the final leg of his landmark East Asia trade mission.
The Tees mayor visited household brand Samsung’s head office who own and have a base in Darlington at their Whessoe Engineering company.
Whessoe Engineering is currently constructing the £650m MGT plant at the South Tees Development Corporation area.
The biomass power station will be fuelled by wood chip and pellets and by around 2020 will generate electricity for the equivalent of 600,000 homes.
The power plant received initial mezzanine investment of over £260m from Seoul-based Hana Financial Investments.
During the trip, a meeting was held with senior investment directors at Hana where the Mayor thanked them for their continued support, and presented a portfolio of investment projects in the Tees Valley.
Hana Financial Investment are experienced asset managers supporting projects between $100-$600m.
Mr Houchen said: “These talks were hugely productive in forging deeper connections with Korean businesses that have done so much for the Tees Valley.
“These major companies are building and financing projects across our area, and I wanted to thank them for putting their faith in our economy and our workforce.
“These firms want to invest more in the UK, and I took every opportunity to demonstrate why Tees Valley is the best place to live, work and invest.”
The mayor also met with petrochemicals firm Lotte Chemicals. They are the only PET packaging firm in the UK, employing 120 people and sponsoring eight apprentices at its plant in Wilton. Almost all of its exports are shipped from Teesport.
Geoff Lippitt, business development director of PD Ports, who was part of the delegation, said: “Teesport is central to the operations of Lotte and many other Teesside-based businesses including new projects such as MGT.
“I welcome their continued commitment to the area and it was fantastic to join the Mayor to discuss how we can work together in the future.”
Delegates also had the chance to visit Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority, a free zone in Korea established to attract foreign investors in the area.
Mayor Houchen is in talks with Government to establish a free zone in the Tees Valley post-Brexit, and this trip allowed the delegation to see how such areas work in practice.
The mayor also attended a formal reception at the British Embassy in Seoul alongside senior Korean business figures, to further promote local investment opportunities and establish new relationships and links.
This follows a successful visit to Japan where Mitsubishi confirmed plans to expand their Teesside operation, and a whistle-stop trip to Thailand where a significant breakthrough was made with the Thai banks over the former SSI site in Redcar.
The mayor said he had been “amazed with the response” and was “pleased with new jobs commitments made” on the trip.
• Pictured (above, from left): Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Business Director Neil Kenley, Samsung’s Plant ENG Team Advisor Steve Kim, Samsung’s Plant Sales Director Jordan Kim and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.