End of the north south divide

End of the north south divide

Have you been to South Tyneside lately? Geoff Ford of Ford Component Manufacturing recommends you cast a fresh eye over the borough.

South Tyneside… Radical Change. If you think those two phrases are mutually contradictory, let me convince you otherwise. South Tyneside was born on April 1 1974, as part of the then Government’s local government reform programme.

The three main towns of Jarrow, Hebburn and South Shields were brought together with the villages of Whitburn, Cleadon and Boldon to form what is still the smallest metropolitan borough in England. In 1974, coalmining still provided considerable employment, as did shipbuilding.

A number of businesses featured including J Barbour & Sons, Plessey, Filtrona, Ford Components and Allen Bradley, the latter having now become HVR International. During the intervening 34 years there has been substantial change. Coalmining and shipbuilding are no more, Plessey surfaced in a variety of guises before disappearing finally, as Circatex, in 2006. Allen Bradley downsized considerably before reinventing itself and going from strength to strength.

Barbour has strengthened its position, both as a world-renowned specialist clothing supplier and a major employer, while Filtrona continues to thrive as part of a worldwide group and Ford Components, the company I am employed by, has seen its annual turnover grow from £330,000 to £10m, all of it by organic growth. South Tyneside is now a vibrant business community, supported by a number of achievements for the borough which add up to a powerful partnership.

In 2003 the council’s economic development team won the North East Chamber of Commerce Best For Business award, while in the same year the first South Tyneside Business Week was held, the only one of its kind in the North East and one that attracts greater attention year by year.

The following year saw South Tyneside win the North East Capital of Enterprise award, and in the year after it was the only borough in Tyne and Wear to bid successfully for Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI) funding of £16.2m over three years.

While the business sector played its part to the full in these achievements, South Tyneside council has gone from a two star and ‘fair’ rating to a four star and ‘excellent’ status, and earlier this year Beacon Status was won for both the Local Area Agreement and Local Strategic Partnership. In 1974, South Tyneside’s unemployment rate stood at 20 per cent.

Now it is eight per cent and falling. The South Tyneside Enterprise Partnership (STEP) which I chair, has responsibility for enterprise and jobs in our Regeneration Strategy.

It is a unique partnership of private, public and community/ voluntary sectors and a good example of the major elements in our borough working together effectively for the good of all.

What has clearly benefited our unemployment statistics has been the continued success of a wide range of businesses, both new and old, in a variety of markets.

Some features that attract businesses to South Tyneside, besides funding, are the recently formed Business Forum, the Manufacturing Forum and the splendid work of the Tyneside Economic Development Company (Tedco). Tedco is responsible for the success of a number of programmes developed by forward to a challenging and exciting future. really successful partnership. delighted to show you around. South Tyneside Means Business, the name we’ve given to our LEGI fund.

South Tyneside has already seen radical change; it has needed to in order to survive - and further radical change remains on the agenda.

We all look I believe South Tyneside has a vibrant and varied business sector, substantial business support and, borough-wide, a If you’d like to visit and see what we have to offer, please make contact, we’d be delighted to show you around.