A “supercharged” Free Port in Tees Valley could create more than 17,500 jobs and contribute more than £1billion to the local economy, according to a new report.
Global construction company Mace Group – who are behind major projects such as The Shard and the London Eye – commissioned the study which has found that a Free Zone at Teesport and Hartlepool would create 10,317 jobs and add £619m to the local economy.
If that Free Zone was “supercharged” – integrated with the region’s enterprise zones – these numbers could rise significantly to 17,583 jobs and add £1.1billion to the area.
Establishing a Free Port in Tees Valley is a key priority of mayor Ben Houchen.
In January, he launched a campaign to look at the creation of a Free Zone as a test case for the UK, backed by more than local 50 leading employers in the area, including Hitachi Rail, Sirius Minerals, Liberty Steel and Quorn Foods.
Since the launch, mayor Houchen has continued to press Government over the plans in meetings with Whitehall figures such as Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick, and Brexit Minister and North East native Lord Martin Callanan.
The idea of rolling out Free Zones in the UK has widespread support, a survey by Survation found that 84% of people in the North East back the plans.
Analysis conducted as part of the report found that of the seven large ports in the north, Tees Valley would be one of the biggest beneficiaries, alongside Grimsby and Immingham and Liverpool.
Mr Houchen said: “This report confirms what I have been saying for a very long time, that a Free Zone in the Tees Valley will be transformational for our region and vital in a post-Brexit Britain.
“When we leave the EU, Britain will find itself with the freedom to be an outward looking country trading with the entire world once again. So as we take back control of our trade policy, I want to ensure we capitalise on these new freedoms to ensure we’re best placed to benefit from all that Brexit brings.
“Areas with Free Port status are recognised around the world as playing a major role in retaining, re-shoring and growing domestic manufacturing activity and boosting trade. All this means is more jobs for local people and a huge boost to our economy.
“The Tees Valley is already attracting international investment and a Free Zone, with all the benefits they bring for business, will make our region an international magnet for even more investment.
“If the Government gets behind our campaign, a Free Port would help this region build on its current strengths in chemicals, steel, energy and logistics and realise our vision to become the most attractive place in the country for high value manufacturing.”