Stockton's Infinity Bridge

One North East Chairman gives support to the region's LEPs

01 March 2012

One North East's Chairman, Paul Callaghan, today opened the North East Economic Forum Annual Conference with a speech setting out his support for the local enterprise partnerships and highlighting the challenges the region still faces.

The Chairman opened the conference on the day One North East released a suite of legacy publications setting out the recent economic story of the region and the Agency's key achievements since its creation in 1999.

Paul Callaghan said: "The North East has changed significantly over the past decade, both physically and economically, moving from having the lowest economic growth rate of any region to a position where it had the highest regional growth rate outside London. Business growth increased, as did employment rates, and the economy became more dynamic and diversified with rising productivity.

One North East has played a major role in the region's improving economic fortunes, providing strong leadership, setting a strategic vision and fostering effective partnerships to achieve tangible improvements.

The Agency took a strategic decision early on to target potential, growth sectors which would deliver jobs, wealth and opportunities to create a more dynamic economy building on our natural strengths. As a result the region now boasts world class economic activity in process industries, advanced manufacturing, low carbon vehicles and new and renewable energy.

Supporting the step change in our industrial strengths One North East also led changes to the way the region looks and feels, regenerating 1,500 hectares of disused land helping to create iconic structures that have transformed the region's skyline, such as The Sage Gateshead and mima. Regeneration in areas such as Seaham, Middlehaven, Newburn Riverside, Gateshead Balitc Quays and Blyth Quayside have ignited community pride and created places businesses want to locate to.

And the region is now a place people want to visit, with record numbers of visitors flocking to experience the cultural, historic and natural attractions. Our highly successful Passionate People Passionate Places campaign played a key role in transforming tourism in the north east into a £4bn a year industry. We are very pleased it will continue to be used for the good of the region by NGI and the Northern Tourism Alliance who were recently successful in buying the brand.

It is clear that the foundations for a strong and growing economy now exist. However the region still faces significant challenges. We are still operating at 77% of the UK average in terms of GVA per head. In the last 12 months unemployment in the North East increased by 19% and we have the highest unemployment rate in Great Britain. And last year more of our businesses failed than were created.

This is the context and the challenge for the region's local enterprise partnerships, covering Tees Valley and the north of the region; the vehicles that will now drive economic growth for the North East. It is for them, for the business community, local authorities, Universities, the 3rd Sector and our communities more widely to build on the legacy and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.

I offer my full support to the LEPs and the region more widely as we go into challenging times, with the confidence that the strength and resilience of the people of our region will continue making the north east a great place to live, visit and do business."

Paul Callaghan also took the opportunity to pay tribute to the staff and Board of One North East, saying "The Agency's record had been achieved by the hard work and dedication of our staff and Board members. I am proud to have worked alongside such a talented and committed group of professionals."

Paul Callaghan was addressing the North East Economic Forum's Annual Conference, alongside Greg Clark MP, Communities and Local Government Minister, and Lord Heseltine, at the Newcastle Gateshead Hilton.