The election of a Mayor was a significant event for Tees Valley, as it marked the point where powers for key issues such as employment and skills, transport, culture and tourism and investment were transferred from central government to Tees Valley.
In May last year it was an honour for me to be elected as Mayor of my home region. I was proud to stand on a manifesto that not only recognised the importance of businesses as part of our society, but also pledged to help them start up, grow, and create jobs.
We have a long and proud industrial heritage, which has had a huge part in forming the character of our region, and the outlook of the local people. The jobs of the future will draw on our heritage, as well as our current skills, but will also require us to be up to date with contemporary industrial trends. Tees Valley is home to a number of forward-thinking businesses across a wide range of sectors.
The region has seen plenty of positive developments in the last year and it continues to enjoy significant successes across our key industrial sectors, as well as new and emerging sectors such as renewable energy, composites and digital and biologicals.
Businesses here are showing their confidence in the area by continuing to invest, whilst a number of new businesses have also demonstrated confidence in the area by choosing Tees Valley for its skills, support and infrastructure.
A few months ago I was invited to the launch of Fujifilm Diosynth’s brand new £7m biotech facility at Wilton. The 10,000ft² cutting-edge facility speeds up production of bio-pharmaceuticals and clearly demonstrates the strength of the UK’s life sciences sector and the confidence that companies have in investing in Tees Valley. We have proven that we have the right skills and talent to attract and retain global blue-chip employers.
Over the summer the Prime Minister launched the South Tees Development Corporation, which is tasked with transforming a 4,500 acre area which includes the former SSI site. We have just completed an extensive consultation on our Master Plan and have received £123m in the Budget, so we can now push ahead with our ambitious plans and there could be spades in the ground as early as Q1 this year.
The Development Corporation has already received around 60 enquiries about the site from around the world, and has a number of commercial proposals to evaluate. Our ambitious plans could create as many as 20,000 jobs and, once fully developed, add £1bn per annum to the local economy over the next 25 years. The site at Redcar is the single biggest development opportunity in the UK today.
Supporting business growth means making sure our companies are connected to the wider world. Improving our road, rail, air and sea links are all priorities in the Tees Valley, as is making sure our local infrastructure has the capacity to get people to work safely and on time.
The economic outlook for Tees Valley is very positive and I am confident we can build on our recent successes and continue to maximise our devolved powers to drive forward my ambitious Plan for Growth. I think the devolution deal we have today will be unrecognisable in years to come.
Government have already committed to working on a second deal and I’ve had many positive discussions with ministers. I have some big plans, watch this space!