Fourteen schemes across the North-East, which the coalition says will create and safeguard about 13,000 jobs, have been approved.
They include: £15m for Cleveland Potash to build a mineral processing plant; £1.2m for the development of a freight terminal in Middlesbrough; £1.65m for Sahaviriya Steel Industries to develop a training programme inRedcar; £1.65m for Stockton car parts maker Nifco to expand its operation; A conference facility at Durham County Cricket Club to include a 150-bed hotel, 2,000-seat theatre and skills academy; Significant investment at Nissan, Sunderland, with the potential to create up to 1,000 additional jobs; £6.7m for a manufacturing plant at the Wilton chemical complex on Teesside.
The announcement follows recent announcements by train-builder Hitachi and steel firm Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI).
By comparison, only one bid from the South-East was approved as the Government focused its efforts on creating jobs in those areas hardest hit by public sector cuts.
The North-East secured about £56.85m from a national pot of £450m, which the coalition hopes will create 100,000 jobs across the UK and narrow the North-South divide.
However, among the rejected bids were £29m for a housebuilding project in the Tees Valley and £9m for a Metrostyle light railway.
Unsuccessful bidders will be invited to apply for the second phase of the growth fund, worth about £1bn, which opens today.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who acted as chairman of the funding decision panel, explained why private firms had been given millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to expand their operations. “It is all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Mr Clegg told The Northern Echo. “But the key thing is that it is not just about bringing any old job to the North-East. “They had to be in the private sector; created quickly, not in five years’ time, but literally in the coming months; and thirdly – and in many ways most importantly – they had to be sustainable. “What were are trying to do built to last.”
The region’s chemical and manufacturing sectors were among the biggest winners.
Cleveland Potash won £15m to become the world’s first commercial producer of polyhalite, a mineral used as an organic fertiliser.
Nifco received £1.65m to expand its product range, Lotte Chemical secured £6.7m, and Thai company SSI, which has bought the mothballed Redcar steel plant, £1.65m to support training. Seafood supplier Cumbrian Foods, of Seaham, east Durham, and car maker Nissan did not reveal what they had received.
Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited, said: “The level of competition in this first phase was substantial, with the number of bids put forward from across the country greatly exceeding the cash available. “The projects approved in Tees Valley will bring in millions of pounds of investment and create and safeguard hundreds of jobs, providing a much-needed boost and the perfect platform for greater economic growth and stability.”
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: “NECC is delighted that this investment is going to business-led initiatives that are focused on company growth and creating sustainable employment".
“The projects that have won backing are at the core of the region’s economic strengths and future growth areas, which is extremely positive.
“We need to learn from the projects that have been successful this time, so that we focus on the right priorities and enter bids for the next funding round that are equally good, if not better.”
Shadow Business Secretary John Denham labelled the Regional Growth Fund “a disaster” because the sum earmarked for the regions over the next three years is the same as the regional development agencies, which included One North East and Yorkshire Forward, received annually.
The Northern Echo 12/04/2011