THE man charged with spearheading the North East's economic recovery has cited "cheap land" as a major draw for companies looking to invest in the region.
Chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Edward Twiddy, says that cut-price land on which to build and develop will have undoubtedly drawn major industry heavyweights to the region in recent months.
The news that more than 300 jobs will be created by Vantec as part of its £22.5m investment in a new 421,000sq ft building at Turbine Business Park, Sunderland, follows hot on the heels of Hitachi Rail Europe’s announcement that it will build Britain’s next generation of high-speed trains at Newton Aycliffe, creating tens of thousands of jobs on site and in the UK supply chain.
Twiddy met with representatives from Hitachi Transport System, the parent company of Vantec, and Sunderland City Council during a site visit by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday.
He said: “Land up here is more readily available and cheaper to develop than most other places in the UK and that has undoubtedly attracted inward investment.
“However, the North East is a strong logistics and distribution location as a result of excellent accessibility to regional markets.
“It is holding its own in a competitive European market in terms of infrastructure with excellent ports, international airports, rail links and trunk roads and motorways.
“Most importantly, the region has a strong work ethic with a particularly skilled workforce.
“Going forward, the Port of Sunderland has invested heavily in recent months to ready itself for incoming business and we need to maximise the potential of the Tyne and also the growing offshore wind industry at Blyth.”
Chancellor George Osborne yesterday announced a major addition to the amount of land in the region’s LEP area.
He plans to increase by 50% the area covered by the North East enterprise zones. The initiative will include extra business rate relief and increased capital allowances to tempt in heavy industry companies.
The Chancellor was able to see first-hand the progress that is being made on the construction of Vantec’s new warehouse at Sunderland, when he visited the site yesterday.
He said: “It’s exciting to see the first new development in one of our enterprise zones anywhere in the country. Vantec has chosen the UK, and particularly the North East, for this huge project and I think it’s a huge vote of confidence in the North East and in the UK.
“We’ve worked together as a national and local government, with leading businesses to bring jobs and investment to this country.
“We are prepared to expand the enterprise zone in the North East by an extra 40 hectares and new tax breaks so this success at Sunderland can be replicated elsewhere in the area.
“What I have witnessed here today shows there is a future based on sustainable and private sector jobs with a lasting industry to provide a prosperous way forward.”
The LEP is responsible for delivery of the region’s enterprise zone, which includes the ultra low carbon vehicle sites next to the A19 in Sunderland and the River Tyne North Bank including Swan Hunter and the Port of Tyne.