The Tees Valley must grasp the opportunities created by the wave of good news in the recent Budget, building on the wave of optimism in the months and years ahead, say local business leaders.
They were speaking at an exclusive Tees Business Live online event chaired by Bob Cuffe and featuring five business leaders who were all excited about the opportunities within our grasp, but also understanding of the need to remain focused and united in order to make the most of them.
“One thing that excites me is the momentum that’s being created for a relatively small place like Teesside,” said Peter Snaith, partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson.
“We are on the map now and this has come at a time of Covid recovery when people are looking to get out of cities and asking where they can move to. We firmly feature and we need to retain that interest.”
Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said: “We’ve got to look at the statistics in the Tees Valley today – the life expectancy, crime and education – and ask ourselves where we want to be.
“The answer, of course, is above the national average, and the way to get there is to bring back more and better jobs. That’s just what the recent announcements herald.
“If we do things collectively this won’t just be a sticking plaster. We have the opportunity now to create an infrastructure, a strategy to rebalance the job opportunities in our area, which will ultimately get more people back to work and provide better opportunities for young people.
“This will all have a positive effect on crime, employment and life expectancy.”
In what is truly a time of hope for the Tees region, it’s anticipated that the announcements of a freeport, the Treasury North relocation to Darlington and £45m-worth of Towns Fund money for Thornaby and Middlesbrough will also prevent the brain drain that we have long suffered from.
“The four words I think about now are aspiration, ambition, pride and hope,” said Andrew Rowe, chartered accountant and business advisor at Wynyard-based accountants, Azets.
“I do think the announcements will lead to the end of the talent drain. A lot people I know lost jobs on Teesside and went offshore to work. Talking to them now, there’s a feeling that this may be the last year they will have to trek up to Aberdeen because there’s a chance of getting some decent work down here.
“Going forward, for the next 10, 15 20 years or so, I think that’s a real possibility.”
For many of our business leaders, it’s not just a positive outlook that’s taking over on Teesside – they can already see the Budget’s announcements kick-starting other growth.
“It’s the smaller waves off the back of these big waves that are happening now,” said Doug Dinwiddie, MD and owner of Darlington-based digital marketing agency White Digital.
“For example, we can see a hotel here in Darlington coming back to life, as well as the restaurant underneath it, and that’s thanks to Treasury North relocating. There will be money spent in the area and that will be positive for everyone.”
Phil Forster, interim managing director at Teesside International Airport agreed: “There’s definitely a knock-on effect in terms of jobs and, thanks to other businesses relocating here, there is the sense of safeguarding the Tees Valley.
“I’ve seen so much positivity and creation already. We have the infrastructure and the skills and now we are creating the jobs.
“It’ great to be given the opportunity. Teesside’s destiny is in its own hands and we have to grasp it. We have to get together and work as a team because we are now firmly on the map and it’s up to all of us how it goes from here.
“We can’t say in ten or 15 years that we haven’t had this or that.
“We’ve been given the opportunity now for everyone to work together and show the best of what Teesside can be.”