Tees Valley has “seeds of 21st Century economy” – NECC AGM hears

THE Tees Valley has the right ingredients for future economic success despite facing severe cutbacks in public sector spending, a gathering of entrepreneurs heard today.

 Speaking at the North East Chamber of Commerce’s (NECC) Tees Valley annual meeting, Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited said that having a number of high value manufacturing  companies was a significant positive for the area.

 Mr Catchpole warned though that the spending cuts meant that the Tees Valley had to be competitive if it was to thrive. He said: “We are in a new world. We will have less public investment, but we have to make sure we in the Tees Valley get our fair share of that public investment.

 “But what’s much more important is to stimulate private sector investment. We will work with you to create the conditions so it is worthwhile financially for the private sector to invest without the need for gap funding.

 “That may take a while, but if anyone asked me how I would judge the success of this area, it would be that the normal rules of investment apply here – you only invest because you get a return, not because you get a subsidy.

 “We already have the seeds for a 21st century economy here because of the retention of high value manufacturing. That’s an important selling point for us.”

 NECC’s newly-appointed Tees Valley committee chairman, Peter Broome of Python Properties, told more than 70 business people that attended the meeting that the area was enjoying increasingly positive signs for the future.

 Speaking about the recent headline announcements regarding SSI, Hitachi and Nifco, Mr Broome said: “It’s probably been the best month that we’ve seen in the Tees Valley for some considerable time.

 “It was particularly pleasing to see the news about Nifco this week. We mustn’t forget that the bedrock is the existing businesses. It’s good to see new businesses come in, but the success of existing businesses is absolutely great news.

 “Many times we’ve heard that manufacturing was struggling and declining, so to see what has happened with recent announcements is absolutely fantastic.

 “We must remember though there are quite significant challenges remaining and we are not out of the woods yet.”

 There are a number of Government policy decisions ongoing that will potentially have a further positive impact on the Tees Valley economy. Speaking on the announcement in George Osborne’s Budget statement that the Tees Valley would get an enterprise zone, Mr Catchpole said: “The aim is to make this a fit for purpose enterprise zone geared towards the sectors we want to make a difference to the economy.”

 He pointed also to the impending announcement on Regional Growth Fund awards, saying: “We are quietly confident and hopeful that we won’t get a particularly bad result out of that.”

 Finally, Mr Catchpole urged people in the Tees Valley to start shouting more loudly about how great they are. He said: “I’m a Londoner. London and the South East will promote itself even when there’s nothing to promote. Here there’s an in-built modesty, which is very fetching but gets you nowhere. It’s a tragedy that we do not tell the world how good we really are.”

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