Three leading local businessmen have welcomed the recent spate of good news for the Tees region but warned that the work is only just beginning.
Teesside and the Tees Valley is buzzing. The wonderful news brought by the recent Budget has given everyone a spring in their step.
The amazing opportunities afforded by freeport status and Treasury North jobs, not to mention a Towns Fund money for Middlesbrough and Thornaby, plus a mooted 2,000 jobs to be created by GE Renewable Energy has brought a huge boost to the region.
But, say business leaders, that doesn’t mean we can sit back and breathe a sigh of relief. On the contrary, the hard work is only just beginning.
“Opportunity doesn’t always equal success,” said Chris White, chief financial officer at Darlington Building Society.
“You’d have to go back a fair few years to find a Budget where Teesside was mentioned as much, and while I’m feeling very positive and excited, these opportunities are not the finishing line.
“Treasury North was absolutely fantastic news for Darlington, there’s no two ways about that. But the next few years are crucial and we need to deliver, to put the work in to make opportunities a reality.”
Chris, who was talking on Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A in association with PD Ports, continued: “We haven’t always been great at championing ourselves. We must corral as a region and say: ‘Here is our one voice for the Tees Valley’.
“If we continue to work together and push forward as a region, there’s a real chance to make dramatic change.”
Charlie Nettle, commercial and marketing director of AV Dawson, owners of the Port of Middlesbrough, agreed: “We haven’t always helped ourselves in the past. We’ve often had a downer on the region and expected hand-outs, but now we are looking at things in a different way.
“The reality is that we now have two mayors, in Ben Houchen and Andy Preston, determined to move us forward in gigantic steps, which is brilliant. We are promoting the strengths of the region and that’s attracting business.”
As a non-Teessider who is soon to bring a North-East bank to Middlesbrough’s Centre Square, Stephen Black, co-founder of GBB, has recognised that the region is on the up.
“We are getting involved at just the right time,” he said. “GBB is taking residence on Teesside for the next 15 years and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
“As a business, you need to be logged into a vibrancy, energy and positivity and we are thrilled to see that coming through.
“Having two positive champions for the area has made such a difference. What Ben Houchen and Andy Preston are doing in their respective roles is refreshingly positive and their enthusiasm is infectious.
“There’s a real sense that the region is coming together to talk people up, celebrate its achievements and help itself.”
The key for continued growth, it seems, is to not take our foot off the gas too soon.
“For something to have longevity it needs to have a critical mass, a core area of expertise,” continued Stephen.
“Teesside needs to keep its finger on the pulse and stay relevant to change as time moves on and reinvent itself many times over.”
Charlie added: “The future, I think, is going to be about world-leading green energy. With the opportunities we have now we can go from feeling we are behind to being ahead for once.
“It really makes you wonder what can come. It’s all really exciting.”
As chair of the audit and risk committee for the South Tees Development Corporation, Chris has seen how a phoenix can rise from the ashes.
“It’s been really heartening to see the journey Teesworks has gone through. I lived in the region when the news of the Redcar site closing came through and that was a dark spot in history.
“I just wish we could have looked forward and seen the opportunities we have available now, to celebrate such positive news and know that we have a future.”