Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen made the bold pledge to again make Teesside a world leader in steelmaking as he launched his campaign for re-election.
During a speech at AV Dawson in Middlesbrough, Houchen promised to bring steelmaking back to Teesside – following the closure of the SSI plant at Redcar in 2015, which resulted in 3,000 jobs being lost.
“Teesside steel built the world, and it will do again,” he said, reminding any doubters that many had questioned his ability to fulfil a previous promise to take the region’s airport back into public ownership.
At the centre of Houchen’s 2017 mayoral election victory was a pledge to “take back control” of the region’s airport by bringing it back into public ownership and saving it from closure.
At the time many people said the commitment could not be delivered, but in March 2018 previous owners Peel sold the airport, along with 819 acres of land for commercial development.
Houchen then delivered on another election pledge when the airport’s much-loved name of Teesside International Airport returned after years as Durham Tees Valley Airport.
In December 2019 mayor Houchen announced that he had secured a £200m, 10-year investment that could create 4,400 jobs on the airport site through the development of a state-of-the-art manufacturing and logistics park.
Speaking before an audience at AV Dawson’s premises, the mayor said: “We need to take control and take our destiny into our own hands.
“Teesside steel built the world, and it will do again.
“We can’t rely on civil servants or national governments. We can do this, and I will make it my mission to make Teesside a world leader in steelmaking again.
“I can already hear the naysayers, the doom mongers and the pessimists. I can hear the same defeatist attitude from my opponents.
“They’ll say ‘Why do you want to do this? You’re just saying it to get votes. It can’t be done!’
“You know what? They said the same thing about the airport – and I delivered. They can say what they like.
“This is my promise to the people of the Tees Valley – if elected, I will bring steelmaking back to Teesside and I’ll restore our rightful place as a global leader in the steel industry.”
Houchen was elected as the first ever metro mayor for the Tees Valley in 2017 in a shock victory for the Conservatives.
He said that since then he had “spearheaded” economic development across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, secured £360m in new money from the government for the Tees Valley including £137m for the former Redcar steelworks site, delivered an investment plan worth £588m and supported the creation of thousands of jobs across the region.
“Over the past three years the Tees Valley has made great progress with more investment, more jobs and confidence than ever before,” added Houchen.
“People are sitting up, listening to us and taking our region seriously for the first time in a generation. We have a seat at the top table, with direct access to Number 10 and key government departments that can help the Tees Valley go further, faster.
“Our region is once again standing tall. Our risk takers our innovators and our entrepreneurs are securing the investment that is creating the good quality, well-paid jobs we all want to see created, now is not a time to put what we have achieved at risk.
“We’ve made great progress but there’s still more to do. Let’s keep moving forward and making progress instead of going back to the same old failed ways of the defeatist, pessimistic attitudes of the past.”
- Tees Business will also be reporting on the election launches of other candidates for Tees Valley mayor. Jessie Jo Jacobs is Labour’s candidate.