· Major Japanese investors in Tees Valley praised by the Mayor
· More jobs on the way as Mitsubishi confirms expansion plans
· SSI land negotiations to take place in Bangkok tomorrow
Mayor Ben Houchen has visited the headquarters of major firms which are vital to the Tees Valley economy during his trade mission to Japan.
As part of his first trade mission, Mayor Houchen led a delegation of local businesses to meet senior representatives from automotive plastics producer Nifco, acrylic products manufacturer Mitsubishi Chemicals and biotechnology developer Fujifilm to discuss their future in the North East.
These companies collectively employ nearly 1,500 staff in the region and have ambitious growth plans for further investment.
Mitsubishi Chemicals’ electrolyte plant in Billingham has recently been brought back online. It produces lithium-ion batteries for the Nissan Leaf that is being assembled in Sunderland, and has plans to double its workforce by 2020.
Fujifilm Diosynth invested £7million in cutting-edge lab facilities at their Wilton-based plant last September, creating 40 new high-level jobs. In their HQ in Tokyo they today confirmed future expansion plans in R&D facilities which could lead to further jobs for the region.
Mayor Houchen said: “If we don’t bang the drum for the Tees Valley abroad, nobody else will. That’s why I’m in Japan with a delegation of local businesses to shout about what we have to offer.
“The firms we have met employ thousands in the Tees Valley and I wanted to thank them personally for putting their faith in our economy and our workforce. It’s vital that we engage with foreign companies based locally to nurture their investment and underline more opportunities for them in our region.
“This is the Tees Valley’s first trade mission and in speaking to these senior business leaders face-to-face, we have strengthened that bond and secured commitments for further jobs and investment.”
Nifco’s Managing Director Mike Matthews said: “I’m pleased that Mayor Houchen has visited Nifco’s Japanese headquarters to continue the friendship we have with the Tees Valley.
“Nifco is an ambitious firm with huge future expansion plans and discussions such as these could help us to move forward and further emphasise the benefits of working in Tees Valley.”
Phil Bailey, General Manager EMEA, MMA Business Unit for Mitsubishi Chemicals (Lucite International) added: “I’m already picking up that discussions have gone well in Japan. I’m certain that the parent company will have appreciated the visit and time taken by the Mayor and the delegation.
“This is an excellent initiative, which can only help us further strengthen what are already very good relationships.”
During the meetings, Mayor Houchen discussed the potential for further investment in Tees Valley and underlined his commitment to businesses that call the region their home.
He also took the opportunity to provide an update on Brexit negotiations and highlighted the opportunities it could bring for the region, including free zone status and increased business support.
The mission included a visit to a smart city, followed by a tour of a carbon capture and reuse centre. The Mayor met industry experts who have prototype facilities in place capturing carbon. Teesside’s industry produces 13million tonnes of carbon per year and capturing this could provide nearly 50% of the UK’s Climate Change target for 2050.
The Mayor will this evening head to Thailand for 24 hours to join South Tees Development Corporation board members, including Vice Chairs Cllr Sue Jeffrey and Steve Gibson. They will hold important talks with three banks over the future of the former SSI steelworks site.
Mr Houchen said he is “upbeat” and is looking forward to positive discussions. He went on to say he is “confident that a deal can be concluded by the summer” but reinforced that compulsory purchase proceedings are still “on the table”.