Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has revealed the pivotal role Steve Gibson played in negotiating with Thai banks to buy back the former SSI site, near Redcar – a deal that could unleash billions of pounds of investment on Teesside.
The Bulkhaul and Middlesbrough FC boss was a key member of a delegation that accompanied Houchen on a trip to the Far East to try to secure the future of the former steelworks site.
Rarely keen to talk publicly, Gibson’s role in moves crucial to Teesside’s future prosperity has largely gone under the radar.
But Houchen, who appointed Gibson to the role of vice-chairman on the board of South Tees Development Corporation, says his role has been vital.
Houchen told Tees Business: “Steve doesn’t sing and shout about it because he’s not that type, but whether people know it or not, he’s incredibly dedicated to and passionate about this region.
“I’ve seen how committed this man is to spending his own time, resources and good will towards improving Teesside.
“He sees himself as a conduit to helping to deliver transformational change to Teesside.
“Everyone knows about Steve’s commitment to the football club but he isn’t just about football. He is Teesside through and through. He is Mr Teesside.”
And Houchen added: “Steve commits himself to drive local investment opportunities. He is a big help to me in my aims to deliver some very big projects.
“He helped me to negotiate with the Thai banks and it was fantastic to have someone like Steve alongside me, with all his experience and knowledge.”
During the trip, Houchen and his team met with senior delegates from a number of global operators with facilities in the Tees region, including Lotte, Samsung, Nifco, Mitsubishi Chemicals and Fujifilm Diosynth Technologies.
But the key meeting resulted in the agreement in principal for South Tees Development Corporation to buy back the former SSI site.
Houchen said: “We have 100 expressions of interest from businesses looking to bring investment and job opportunities to the site, ranging from millions to many billions of pounds.
“Long-term, permanent jobs will come within weeks, if not days, once we’re able to announce that we have the land. I’d be extremely disappointed if the deal wasn’t completed by the end of the year.”