TRADE and Investment Minister Digby Jones toured the North-East yesterday to highlight the region’s “world class business status”.
Lord Jones of Birmingham toured three of the region’s leading companies, Washington-based electric vehicle maker Tanfield Group, Peterlee-based Caterpillar and Sabic Petrochemicals on Teesside and met business leaders.
He said: “The North-East is a region which shows strong business confidence. The companies I have visited today are riding high on optimism with export orders booming.
“In my new ministerial role I will work hard to promote North-East firms overseas and attract inward investment into the region. That is why I am here – to meet business and listen first hand to their issues.
“My visit to Sabic UK Petrochemicals really highlighted to me the region’s long and proud history in the chemical sector. The North-East chemicals sector is enormous and growing, currently employing 34,000 people and generating around £8bn of GDP.
“Caterpillar’s operation in Peterlee is not only huge but also extremely sophisticated. I was impressed with its latest computer analysis techniques, robotic technology and a state of the art paint plant.
“My visit to Tanfield Group showed me why the UK has a sustainable manufacturing future. It is exactly the kind of high-skilled, hi-tech manufacturing in which the UK has real expertise. I am particularly delighted that a UK company is taking the lead in finding green solutions for the automotive sector.”
The Minister’s tour of the region began at Sabic where he was able to see progress on construction of the company’s new £200m, world-scale Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) plant at the Wilton International site.
And it concluded with a visit to the Tanfield where he saw Smith Electric Vehicles, the world’s largest manufacturer of road-going commercial electric vehicles and produces 10 units a week.
Tanfield chief executive Darren Kell said: “We are delighted that Lord Jones recognises our pioneering work in this field and we’re proud to have his support.”
Ian Williams, director of business and industry at regional development agency One NorthEast, said: “The Minister has seen first-hand just what the region has to offer as we continue to promote the message to businesses both elsewhere in the UK and abroad.”