Dear Santa, please bring us...

A PERIOD of significant economic growth is under way in the Tees Valley.

A PERIOD of significant economic growth is under way in the Tees Valley.

Billions of pounds are being ploughed into projects.

A resurgence in the region’s process industry is powering ahead with investment of more than £1bn under way - or announced - for the sector. Plus we are in line to capitalise on a further £5bn of investment in the coming years.

It’s hoped PD Ports’ plans for a £300m deep sea container terminal, which could bring 5,000 jobs to Teesside, will move ahead in 2008.

And longer-term ambitions include creating new communities at key regeneration sites and development of a £140m Metro-style transport system.

Progress is being made to transform the Tees Valley into a world class city region, but there is still much work to be done.

It faces real skills shortages in key sectors, such as engineering. Recently it was announced the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries has been established on Teesside.

But nurturing talent and equipping people with the skills they need is vital for the Tees Valley to reach its full potential.

Today we ask the movers and shakers in industry and commerce to tell us what they wish most for the Tees Valley this Christmas - and for the region’s long-term success.

MARTYN PELLEW PD Ports’ group development director All I want for Christmas is... A deep sea container port

The go-ahead was given by planners in April for the land-based elements of the £300m deep sea port development at Teesport, but it needs ministers to give the green light for the water and riverside parts of the scheme.

“That would make a great Christmas present for the whole team, which has worked so hard to get this project, and its prospects for 5,000-plus new Tees Valley jobs over the next 20 years, so far.”

JOE DOCHERTY Tees Valley Regeneration chief executive All I want for Christmas is... A Tees Valley Metro

Minister for the North East Nick Brown has put his considerable Parliamentary weight behind TVR’s plans for a light railway system that would link towns and people with jobs across the Valley. The ambitious £140m system, modelled on Newcastle’s successful metro, had a bit of a stop/go start, but is now firmly back on track.

“I’d like to see the business plan for the metro delivered to Government during 2008. Although being honest it could still take 10 years to open. It would not just improve our transport system for business, but would bring hope to thousands of people who could benefit from the jobs it would help create.”

JOANNE FRYETT Head of member relations, Tees Valley Chamber of Commerce All I want for Christmas is... An integrated transport system

Tees Valley is still waiting for a Regional Transport Strategy, due to be published in 2008 as part of the North East’s Regional Spacial Strategy, but once adopted it will set the agenda for developing road, rail, air and sea networks over the next 20 years. No one disputes that fast, efficient, integrated transport links are good for the economy. The argument is likely to be who pays.

STEVEN COCHRANE Retailer and entrepreneur, Psyche, Middlesbrough All I want for Christmas is... Another 0.25% cut in interest rates

The Bank of England cut interest rates last week to 5.5% in the strongest sign yet that it is worried the UK economy could be heading for a sharp slowdown.

“A cut would put a smile on the face of retailers - another 0.25% would take the cut to 0.5%, which means people could see their monthly outgoings going down a significant amount. It’s a feel good factor.”

NICK BROWN, MP Government Minister for the North East All I want for Christmas is... A big train set for the Tees Valley going all the way from Redcar and Hartlepool to Darlington

The North East Assembly slammed the Department of Transport’s blueprint for rail in the region earlier this year, branding it a “missed opportunity”. Network Rail has now embarked on the first stage of a study that will eventually look at upgrading the network from the coastal ports to the East Coast Main Line and beyond. Encouraged by PD Ports, which is anxious to see improvements for freight from growing Teesport, Network Rail is due to submit its first feasability study in February. But Mr Brown might have to wait a long time to climb aboard this Christmas special - there’s no money and no timetable for completion yet.

JON BOLTON Teesside Cast Products - Corus, managing director All I want for Christmas is... To change people’s perceptions about steelmaking here at Teesside

Steelmaking has had a tough time changing its image. Still perceived as a heavy, dirty - albeit well-paid - job, it’s finding it hard to compete in the employment market against some of Teesside’s “cleaner, greener” industries.

“There are some fantastic jobs to be had at Corus. We are continually investing in our plant and people to make sure we stay at the forefront of steelmaking and we are a truly global business with opportunities to match. I wish the younger generations could appreciate what real potential there is to have a fantastic career right on their doorstep.”

SARAH GREEN Confederation of British Industries, North East All I want for Christmas is... A sensible package of capital gains tax reforms

Following outrage from the business community at the abolition of capital gains tax relief, Chancellor Alistair Darling promised to set out alternative reforms for capital gains tax before Christmas.

The CBI argued that the creation of a flat rate of 18% undermined the Government’s pro-enterprise, pro-business, pro-long term investment policies. Its package of alternative reforms includes a £100,000 tax-free allowance on assets held longer than 10 years.

“The latest date Darling can deliver his promise is the 17 December. It’s top of the CBI Christmas wish list, but will the Government deliver?”

TOM CROMPTON Learning and Skills Council North East, director for Durham and the Tees Valley All I want for Christmas is... To boost the process sector through the new national skills academy

A report from the North East Process Industry Cluster recently showed almost double the number of workers are needed in the process industry by 2014. But the sector faces a shortage of 20,000 workers by then. Teesside University is the base for the £10m National Skills Academy for the Process Industries, which will be vital in overcoming desperate skills shortages in the sector.

“The huge challenges that the North East faces in up-skilling our workforce should not be underestimated. My hope is that the employer-led national skills academy fills the skills gaps in this sector and transforms the future of the Tees Valley.”

ALASTAIR MacCOLL Business Link North East chief executive All I want for Christmas is... To substantially improve the skills base of the Tees Valley

A shortage of skills is a key issue for the Tees Valley’s engineering and process industries. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) by 2015 the region will be short of roughly 13,000 engineers, while a report from the North East Process Industry Cluster showed almost double the number of workers are needed. Recognising the impending skills creisis, Teesside University recently opened the £10m National Skills Academy for the Process Industries.

“The Tees Valley is blessed with remarkable people with bags of talent and skills in the process, renewables and multimedia industries. They are already earning the area an international reputation for excellence, but just imagine what could be achieved if we properly harnessed their potential.”

HUGH LANG Durham Tees Valley Airport managing director All I want for Christmas is... Tees Valley’s air links into Heathrow safeguarded

A rise in landing charges at Heathrow from April could jeopardise Tees Valley’s growing number of services and undermine its plans for a new terminal. Although Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, in announcing the plans for a third runway at Heathrow, stressed the importance of regional links, their future is by no means assured. MPs, local authorities and business organisations have joined the airport in campaigning for measures to prevent regional services vanishing before the new runway is even built.

“My biggest wish would be to see the Government recognise that maintaining regional air links into Heathrow airport and the international air transport network is vital in ensuring the economic future of the Tees Valley and the North East as a whole.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer