IT is encouraging that the North East is the only UK region to export more than it imports, with a £5bn trade surplus. The key ports within the region clearly play a big part in this success story backed up by major employers such as Nissan and the offshore sector.
Exports are increasingly shipped from the region's major ports on the Tyne and Tees as well as the smaller, but active ports including Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool and Blyth.
Tourism has also played a big part in the economic recovery with Newcastle International Airport handling more than 4m passengers last year and the Port of Tyne increasing throughput to 600,000 passengers as well as doubling the number of visiting cruise ships.
Historically, the region's ports developed alongside the strategic industries of coal mining, shipbuilding and steel production.
The rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees were industrial arteries with the majority of port activity being behind secure walls with limited public access.
More recently the region's economy has diversified with manufacturing, service industry and tourism replacing the declining traditional waterfront activity.
High-quality mixed use development was promoted by the development corporations across the region during the 90s which have considerably raised both the profile of the region and the immediate environments.
Newcastle International Airport has seen considerable new investment in the terminal and airside facilities as well as airline additions championed by the introduction of daily flights to Dubai on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The airport, run by the seven local authorities, selected AMP Capital as their partner for a 49% shareholding which assists in reducing debt in the business and will support the long-term growth and development of the airport.
The seven local authorities are in addition further investing £68m in the airport which is a major asset for the whole region.
Durham Tees Valley Airport has secured further business, new airline routes as well as new investment by Peel Investments and the local authorities including a new access road with car parking improvements.
The two major sea ports in the region namely, Port of Tyne and Teesport have also invested heavily in their operational port facilities and infrastructure to meet customer logistics and improved cargo handling. Both ports are seeking to secure further business within the renewable energy and off-shore sectors as well as their more traditional port activities.
Car handling on the Tyne has reached record numbers. The new Hoegh Northern Terminal operated by NSA UK handles import, export, and trans-shipments of cargo between the Far East, Scandinavia and the Baltic Region including Russia. The combined car volumes/annum through the three car terminals on the Tyne is close to 700,000 units, making the Port of Tyne the fifth largest car handling port in Europe.
New investment is also being promoted on the NE Enterprise Zone for offshore manufacturing opportunities. Energy has a bright future with offshore wind farms which can build on existing expertise and resources. Around 60,000 employees work up and down the North East coast in oil and gas and 70% of the North Sea oil platforms were built in the region.
Major retailers Asda and Tesco have large logistics and distribution facilities within Teesport and the re-introduction of steel production by SSI UK at Teesside has seen 2m tonnes of steel slab being exported through the port since 2012.
The investment in new infrastructure and facilities by the region's main ports will make a significant contribution to the economic recovery within the region and pave the way for further new inward investment and development.
:: Danny Cramman, head of Industrial Agency, GVA, Newcastle