SSI's historic takeover of Teesside Cast Products has re-ignited local steelmaking, boosted business confidence and sent the Gazette's Teesometer rocketing skywards. Jez Davison reports.
LAST October optimism on Teesside jumped a few notches when the area became one of the first regions in the country to get its very own local enterprise partnership (LEP).
The new body, which will make key decisions on local planning, housing and transport issues, sent out a strong message that Teesside can stand on its own two feet.
The news was a shining beacon of light amid companies’ dark struggle to stay profitable following the worst recession in decades.
Now another huge, bright light has emerged on the horizon in the form of Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI).
Twelve days ago the Thai giant sealed a deal to buy Teesside Cast Products from Tata as part of $1bn investment to re-ignite local steel-making.
The move, which will create at least 800 jobs, is the successful culmination of a year-long fight to revive a 150-year tradition on Teesside after the mighty blast furnace at Redcar was mothballed last February.
It sends out a clear message that Teesside is open for business on an international scale.
Once the plant is up and running again this autumn, it will start shipping 3.5m tonnes of world-famous steel to Thailand each year.
But SSI plans to boost capacity and push production up towards the 10m tonnes a year achieved back in Teesside’s 1970s heyday.
In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, the company also pledged to expand into new markets and create a £1.7m training fund to get graduates and skilled workers into employment.
On top of this - just a few days after the deal was struck - the Government confirmed it was moving ahead with a £4.5bn contract with Hitachi to build a fleet of new trains in Newton Aycliffe.
Right on Teesside’s doorstep, the scheme will create 500 permanent jobs and around 9,000 others in the local supply chain.
In any other circumstances, this double boost would have sent our Teesometer crashing through the roof.
But these are exceptional times.