Teesside is one of the great success stories of the past few years, with trade on the rise and unemployment down, said chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, after spending a day with Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen visiting local businesses to see what the region has to offer.
The number two at the Treasury kicked the day off at Fusion Hive in Stockton before visiting Tees Components in North Skelton, the South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar and finally Middlesbrough’s Boho One to meet digital leaders Animmersion and Double Eleven.
At Fusion Hive, she was guest of honour at the official opening of Square one Law’s first office outside Newcastle.
She then visited heavy engineering specialists Tees Components along with Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke.
Truss was treated to a display of technology at Boho One with demonstrations from leading 3D animation, data visualisation and virtual reality studio Animmersion and games developer Double 11.
Mayor Houchen used the opportunity of Truss’s visit to the former SSI steelworks site to once again make the case for transforming Teesport into the UK’s first free port, something he says will power growth and create thousands of good quality jobs.
Houchen said: “For months I’ve been shouting about the benefits of transforming Teesport into the UK’s first ever Free Port – and today was no exception. Liz knows how important this project is to me, and what it would mean for the people of the Tees Valley.
“Next year we will take back control of our trade policy and have freedom to sign new trade deals with old friends and new allies. A Free Zone in the Tees Valley will be transformational for our economy and allow us to grab hold of the countless opportunities ahead.
“Major international exporters are telling me they would move to Teesside if we are successful in establishing a Free Port. If the Government gets behind this project, it will make our region even more of a magnet for investment which will mean more good quality jobs for local people.
“I was delighted to show the chief secretary around the South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar. She saw first-hand the true size and scale of this 4,500 site and the massive opportunity it presents.
“Last month we reached an agreement in principle with the Thai banks to bring the former SSI site back into local ownership. Today was a perfect opportunity to push the minister to ensure we have the resources necessary to take on responsibility of the site once a deal is reached.”
Liz Truss said: “Teesside is one of the great success stories of the past few years, with trade on the rise and unemployment down.
“There are fantastic opportunities out there for businesses looking to expand their exports and, as a Government, we want to do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for trade to prosper.
“Because we know that when trade goes up, so does employment and wages, meaning more families have more money in their pocket.
“With regional airports such as Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley set to benefit from Heathrow expansion, I hope to see exports continuing to rise in the region.”
The Teesside tour comes as latest figures show goods exported from the North East were worth £12.9 billion in 2017, up by £1 billion on the previous year.
Analysis shows that as trade has risen so has average pay, which is up by nearly 14 per cent in the North East since 2010 – the fastest growth of any English region.
Medicines, machinery and transport continue to be the most successful exports from the region.
Latest figures show that export goods from the North East of England to North America were worth £1.2 billion in 2017, up from £1 billion the year before; exports to Asia were worth £1.7 billion, up from £1.5 billion the year before and that trade to the Middle East and North Africa saw a big leap by nearly 20 per cent to £635 million worth of goods.