The Mayor of Middlesbrough Ray Mallon today calls on the Government to provide a huge boost for business in the town by giving it a new Enterprise Zone.
Enterprise Zones provide businesses with incentives such as tax allowances on construction, exemption from business rates for 10 years and simplified planning rules.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne has signalled his intention to create 10 Enterprise Zones across the country.
Tees Valley Unlimited, who deliver the Local Enterprise Partnership, has for the past nine months been seeking to promote the idea of an Enterprise Zone in the Tees area to stimulate private businesses and help drive forward economic revival.
The proposals are focused on creating an Enterprise Zone that will be fit for the 21st Century, reflecting the lessons learnt from the past and building on local economic strengths.
Mr Mallon is a keen supporter of Enterprise Zones and the Tees Valley Unlimited proposals.
Last March Mr Mallon and Middlesbrough FC chairman Steve Gibson, who is one of the leading businessmen in the North East, spoke face-to-face with David Cameron urging him to grant the Tees area an Enterprise Zone.
Mr Mallon said: “In this challenging time for the national economy it’s critical that the Government supports the private sector particularly in those areas which are set to be hit hardest by public sector cuts.
“The Tees Valley Unlimited proposals for an Enterprise Zone specifically build on this area’s economic strengths.
“An Enterprise Zone here will help the nation to be more competitive in critical business areas.
“There needs to be a partnership between this area and the Government to support business growth here. We are ready to do our bit.
“The Government have the powers to help and we have the people, the businesses and the ability to make a difference.
“When Steve Gibson and I spoke to David Cameron last March he could clearly see how vital such a proposal would be to this area.
“We have been campaigning on this issue for some time and it is now crucial that we ensure one of the 10 Enterprise Zones comes to Middlesbrough and the Tees area or all the work would have been in vain.”
As well as David Cameron, Mr Mallon and Steve Gibson have been lobbying Stockton South MP James Wharton to gain his support to bring an Enterprise Zone to Teesside.
Mr Mallon, who is also a Tees Valley Unlimited Leadership Board member, said the Enterprise Zone would help Middlesbrough build on its strong digital sector and develop its high value engineering sector, particularly in areas that support the low carbon economy.
He said: “Enterprise Zones for these sectors will help them compete in the global markets.
“We want our Enterprise Zones to genuinely add value and not just help local businesses relocate to a better site.
“We want new businesses to locate here who would have otherwise gone overseas.”
Enterprise Zones were first promoted in the early 1980s but the last one was designated over 14 years ago.
Tees Valley Unlimited are looking at sites across the Tees Valley as potential sites for Enterprise Zones.
Furthermore, the Elected Mayor does not think the Government should stop there in providing tax incentives for business growth.
Middlesbrough has a legacy of empty office and commercial floor space in its town centre. The Mayor believes the Government can help by reducing VAT on renovation and conversions of these buildings so that owners are more willing to re-use them.
The Mayor said: “In towns like Middlesbrough this is a major problem. VAT adds 20% to conversion costs when there is good quality new business space available elsewhere.
“Exemption from VAT for empty property in our town centres would be a start”.
He also believes the Government should do more to support the major industrial companies to the east of the town.
Many of these petro-chemical businesses are owned by foreign companies and look to future investment on a worldwide scale.
Mr Mallon said: “If these companies are not supported by a more favourable tax allowance system for investment they could go elsewhere and that will be another nail in the coffin of manufacturing in the UK.
“I know the Coalition Government is aware of these issues. We now want them to support our proposals.”