Business Secretary Greg Clark says his hometown is well-placed to capitalise on the “extraordinary” revolution taking place around the world.
The Middlesbrough-born Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was the special guest at an event to mark the start of work on the £55m TeesAMP development on Thursday morning.
Mr Clark met with business representatives from around the Tees community at TWI on Riverside Park Industrial Estate, adjacent to where work started.
He told guests the Tees region has “a fantastic opportunity to seize more than our share of what is a huge market” of a worldwide revolution.
“Every time I’m here there seems to be a further wave of enthusiasm, optimism and commitments that are being made here,” said the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells.
“Nationally and locally Brexit might be the subject of many conversations today, but one of the things I think we’d be talking about much more, if we weren’t having these Brexit discussions, is the extraordinary revolution that’s taking place in industries all across the world.
“Whether it’s in the digitalisation of manufacturing or the extraordinary change in the way that we generate and use energy across the globe, these are revolutions that stand in comparison with the industrial revolution which, in the later stages, Teesside played such an important part.
“If you see that going on around the world, you have to look at what the opportunities are, and I think we in this country, and Middlesbrough in particular, we’re extraordinarily well-placed to benefit from that.”
TeesAMP is funded by £12.5m from Middlesbrough Council, £7.65m from Tees Valley Combined Authority, £2.3m from the SSI Taskforce and some private investment.
Once completed, the first phase of TeesAMP will be home to at least 17 advanced manufacturing companies and it is expected to generate hundreds of millions of gross value added for the Tees economy.
Mr Clark joined Middlesbrough mayor Dave Budd and Tees mayor Ben Houchen at Thursday’s event.
“If you take manufacturing, and you look at the products that are being made on Teesside, and the raw materials going into those products all around the world… the craftsmanship, the skills and the ingenuity of Teessiders has a worldwide reputation,” added Mr Clark.
“So this is a fantastic opportunity to seize more than our share of what is a huge market, but you need to plan for that. You need to have the right facilities, the right skills, the ambition and marketing to make people aware, and it does involve everyone coming together.
“It’s great we have the two mayors working so closely together as well as the university and colleges.
“There couldn’t be a better industrial strategy and practice than what you’re doing here – thinking ahead, seizing opportunities, working with the private sector, the public sector and educationalists to make sure we achieve the best for them all.”