Businesses in Teesside have every reason to be optimistic about the year ahead. That was the message more than 150 business people heard at a special business forum held in Middlesbrough.
The Middlesbrough Business Forum’s Bigger Breakfast Exchange took place at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.
The Bigger Breakfast Exchange was the largest seminar held by the Middlesbrough Business Forum since its inception five years ago.
The exchange aimed to bring business people from the town and the wider Tees area together to make contacts, share ideas and do business.
James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, gave a rallying cry to Teesside businesses and said from his experience the reality on the ground is far better than the gloom in the headlines.
“We have been through some challenging times in recent years and we’re not out of the woods yet, but Teesside has many reasons to be optimistic about the future,” he said.
“SSI recruitment at the former Teesside Cast Products site is well under way with the workforce now over 800, Tata Steel has invested £2m in wind turbine manufacturing at Hartlepool and only a fortnight ago we had confirmation from the Chancellor that trains would be rolling out of Hitachi’s new Aycliffe plant by 2016.
“The Tees Valley economy has never been so diverse. There are abundant opportunities across sectors such as renewables, process industries, digital innovation and good old fashioned manufacturing.
“The greatest potential for Teesside and the region lies in our ability to get our goods to markets on every continent in the world.”
Managing Director at Tees Valley Unlimited Stephen Catchpole highlighted how TVU will support SMEs throughout 2012.
Mr Catchpole said there would be huge opportunities for SMEs in the supply chain to major projects, such as the growth of the offshore wind sector.
A panel discussion was then held with panel members Harry Wilmot, from fire protection specialists HE Woolley, Richard Horniman, from Middlesbrough Council, Edward Bilcliffe, from William Lane Foundry, and Helen Richardson, from AXA, answering questions from the floor.
Diane Manuel, from CDS Independence Centre based in Parliament Road, Middlesbrough, was one small business director who attended the event.
The business, which has sold products to assist disabled people for 20 years, recently diversified in order to survive by opening a showroom for customers instead of relying solely on trade business.
“We took the plunge and expanded at a time when people are not,” said Diane.
“We thought if we don’t do it now we never will. It’s going well but it is still a learning curve for us.”
Diane praised the exchange event as a good opportunity to meet fellow business people in the town.
Councillor David Budd, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Resources, who attended the event, said: “Events like this show that it is absolutely not all doom and gloom out there.
“From the major projects in the offing to the successful start-up companies we have in Middlesbrough there is a great deal to be optimistic about.
“At Middlesbrough Council, despite significant cuts, we will do all we can to support enterprise in the town and help the private sector grow.”
The Middlesbrough Business Forum was set up five years ago by Middlesbrough Council and is financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).