Paul Booth, Chairman of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and Tees Valley Combined Authority board member, on how the region is taking advantage of devolution.
In the past 12 months we have seen great changes for business in the Tees Valley. Amid all the uncertainties we face, there are critical steps forward which could have a really positive effect for business in 2017 and beyond. The creation of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, to champion economic development across the five local authorities in our area, builds on the solid foundations of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership.
Through our Tees Valley Devolution Deal, we have received the first £15 million tranche of a total of £450 million of devolved funding. We are committed to investing this money to improve skills, infrastructure and business growth. Devolution also means that more of the decisions about the Tees Valley’s economy can be made here in the Tees Valley, with business playing its part in setting priorities for investment. The coming year will see the election of a directly elected Tees Valley Mayor to chair the Combined Authority. Whatever the outcome of that election, we will ensure the strong partnership between business and local councils continues to thrive.
The prize is significant. Our Strategic Economic Plan lays the foundations for the creation of 25,000 jobs and the addition of £2.8 billion to our economy. Achieving this requires even stronger collaboration between the Combined Authority, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the private sector, to ensure the correct infrastructure and support are in place for business growth. It’s vital that we continue to welcome and support new investment into the Tees Valley, alongside the support we provide for existing businesses through the Tees Valley Business Compass initiative.
The BQ Yearbook shows the strength of the business community here in the North East, in which the Tees Valley is more than playing its part. The multi-billion pound investment by Sirius Minerals in its polyhalite project in the North Yorkshire Moors is a great example of how our area’s combination of skills, natural resources, and can-do attitude have brought an economic boost. It will create 1,000 jobs directly, including many on Teesside at the processing plant, and many more in the supply chain.
MGT Power’s £650 million Teesside Renewable Energy Plant is another great example of a major investment in the area, which shows the importance of private sector projects and sustainability in the future prosperity of the Tees Valley. Green energy projects such as this, which can create hundreds of jobs, are an important step in moving towards a circular economy, where waste and pollution are minimised and re-used, and wealth is kept in the area.
The importance of Life Sciences as a growth industry in the Tees Valley was boosted by the opening of the CPI National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Darlington. This is a major industry for the UK as a whole, with pockets of excellence across the country; so the provision of laboratory space locally opens up our area to both export and research and development opportunities in a global growth industry.
Even where we have suffered from economic loss, such as the devastating closure of the Redcar Steelworks, the SSI Task Force has shown that by coming together in a spirit of partnership we can make a difference. One year after the closure, we can demonstrate good progress in finding new jobs for the former workers of SSI and its supply chains, successful new businesses, and young people found alternative opportunities for apprenticeships.
The Tees Valley is now seen as a place which can become a flagship of the North, a key element of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, and a place that can seize the opportunities of devolution. We can look forward to the future with confidence.