Let’s raise our heads above the lockdown parapet, urges business chief

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Pre-lockdown confidence will return to the Tees region’s businesses – and we need to go beyond “introspective reflection” and be ready to grasp the opportunities. That was a view expressed by one of the region’s business leaders.

The coronavirus crisis has dealt our economy a body blow, there’s no two ways about it.

But as lockdown measures begin to ease and the country slowly starts to get back to work, there are positives to be taken.

And in terms of the Tees Valley, better days will return, we just have to be patient and grasp the opportunities.

Those are the views of key managers at three Teesside businesses whose teams of essential staff have helped to keep the country’s infrastructure going throughout the past few difficult months.

Joanne Potter, head of HR at Wilton-based Sembcorp Energy, David Henderson, chief commercial officer at px Group and PD Ports chief operating officer Jerry Hopkinson were the latest to take part in the weekly Tees Business Leaders Facebook Live broadcast.

The full film can be viewed on our Facebook page here.

PD Ports is the fifth largest port business in the UK and handles 30 million tonnes of cargo on the Tees every year – during lockdown this has included everything from vital supplies of food and medicine to construction materials for the Nightingale hospitals.

There was optimism on Teesside before the crisis hit – and Jerry believes it will return. The emphasis is, he said, quite rightly on the human cost of the crisis but as it begins to change, we need to be ready.

Teesside needs to continue to push for a levelling in the North/South divide as well as infrastructure redevelopment projects including improving transportation links and the development of the south bank to see those better prospects.

“Those things have been deferred by Covid-19, they have not been despatched by Covid-19,” said Jerry.

“And all of us, whether PD Ports, Sembcorp, px or the guy running the sandwich van that brings sandwiches to the site every day, all of us need to get our heads around and beyond this process of introspective reflection on all that is bad that has happened to us, get our heads above the parapet and start moving forward again in due course.

“The opportunities sit there for us to grasp; we need to be measured, we need to be patient, we need to be clever and reflective in the way we go about it. That better day is there for us and we’ll walk into it.”

Energy supplier Sembcorp has also continued to provide its vital services. One of the positives, says Joanne, has been the commitment and flexibility of staff and a pulling together of the business community to share best practice.

“I still see positivity in this region, fantastic positivity and mind set in our people. The cultural aspect and work ethic of the Nort- East is very, very high I think,” she said.

“On a personal level, we’ve all come together and appreciated one another and there’s a positivity we can hopefully glean from that.”

Px Group’s David echoed both sentiments. The business operates and maintains some of the UK’s major infrastructure including power plants and gas processing facilities and its essential workforce has kept the UK up and running.

“A huge positive at px throughout this difficult period is that we’ve maintained essential delivery services to the country to keep it moving,” he said.

“The green shoots of new business, he added, are once again starting to emerge.

“There are green shoots, things are starting to move again, people are starting to think about coming out of one period, how to we get back to work – there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”