BUSINESS leaders and politicians hailed Teesside’s vibrant community spirit for helping to revive a proud 150-year steelmaking tradition.
SSI president Win Viriyaprapaikit was handed the key to Redcar’s mighty blast furnace, marking the completion of the company’s £291m takeover of Teesside Cast Products (TCP).
Mr Win hailed Teesside as “a wonderful place” and said its people were a real asset to the local community.
He said: “They have been through several years of uncertainty and two years of hardship. Yesterday marked the end of that hardship.”
He said SSI’s presence on Teesside could be the catalyst for other international investors to come to the area.
“I hope that this will be the pioneer that will lead to more Thai companies coming to the UK,” he said.
“This was a great day for Teesside, for SSI and for UK steelmaking.”
Phil Dryden, a former Corus boss involved in talks to find a buyer for Teesside Cast Products, said he was already looking forward to the day the blast furnace was switched back on again.
Mr Dryden, who has returned to TCP as President of SSI UK, said: “I just need to focus people on the first task and that is producing 10,000 tonnes [of steel] a day - and doing it day after day after day.”
Yesterday was an emotional day for hundreds of people - particularly those whose lives had been turned upside down during the tumultuous battle to save Teesside steel.
Ian Baillie from Hutton Rudby lost his job after the blast furnace was mothballed in February 2010, forcing him to relocate and find work outside of the area.
But his story had a happy ending when SSI stepped in and offered him a job as a training manager in Redcar.
Ian, who has spent a quarter of a century in the steel industry, said: “It’s brilliant. It’s been a long time in coming and obviously it’s very good for the area as a whole.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people back to the area.”
Ian Swales, Redcar MP, said yesterday’s event was a “great and emotional day” for everyone.
“We can really get going now - and get on with the job of making steel again.”
He said Redcar had been hit hard by the mothballing of TCP - but the takeover by SSI would now hopefully reverse that decline and build a brighter future for the area.
Yesterday was also an emotional day for Geoff Waterfield, multi-union works committee chairman, who has lived and breathed the Save Our Steel campaign for the last two years.
“We never doubted that this site would reopen,” he said.
He said there was now a huge amount of work to be done to bring the plant back on line.
“There’s a hard year ahead, but it’s something we all want to get on with.
Local businesses are also upbeat about the revival of Teesside steelmaking.
David Robinson, group chief executive officer of PD Ports, said the SSI takeover would boost the amount of freight going through Teesport.