Mark Lane is uplifted by very positive observations on the future of Teesside from Andrew Rowe, partner with Baldwins Group and chair of the North East England Chamber of Commerce Redcar and Cleveland committee
Andrew Rowe doesn’t have to think too hard when contemplating what motivates him to keep pressing the case for the North East, and Teesside in particular. “My children are 14 and 12 and I would like to think that they won’t need to move away from the area to achieve their goals,” he tells me.
Andrew, partner with Baldwins Group and chair of the North East England Chamber of Commerce Redcar and Cleveland committee, was talking in context of some of the hits the business community and people in the south of our region have taken in recent times, as well as ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, which could potentially hit North East exports.
Despite such issues, his glass remains half full. “I really think this is a once in a lifetime chance for Redcar and Cleveland to really take off,” he enthuses. “There are game-changing large projects such as Sirius in East Cleveland and the South Tees Development Corporation on the old SSI site.
“Take this together with low priced housing, great beaches, wonderful countryside and new independent shops, bars and restaurants springing up what seems like weekly, we must get the message out there that this is a brilliant place to work and live.”
But what about the business closures we have seen? “All my life we seem to have been dealing with one downturn or another,” Andrew responds. “We are a pretty hardy bunch up here and are used to pedalling a bit faster to get the job done.
My generation were the last of the steelworks and old ICI Wilton site’s large intake. I had a lot of friends who subsequently lost their jobs. The vast majority have now moved on to work in well paid, quality jobs.”
It’s easy to warm to this positive theme, and for my own part I firmly believe we need more upbeat thinking like this in the region.
Interestingly, Andrew’s own career started via a North East England Chamber of Commerce training scheme at Middlesbrough accountancy practice Keith Robinson & Co. He qualified in accounting in 2000 and was part of the founding team of award-winning firm, Evolution, which eventually merged into the Baldwins Group, now one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in the UK.
“In that time my work has moved from compliance initially into advisory, helping businesses across the board from start-ups and sole traders to much larger multi-million-pound companies,” he says.
“I’m a proud Teessider, from the ‘Mighty’ Redcar. The majority of my work is in the local area with some in the wider North East region.”
Andrew is rightly keen to take the positives where local business is concerned. But is there actually support out there for ambitious businesses from Teesside? Answering, he says: “There certainly is assistance out there for new businesses, with Tees Valley Combined Authority, under Mayor Ben Houchen, for example doing a great job in providing support together with organisations like UK Steel Enterprise.
“However, it is difficult for new businesses to be experts in everything and to know how to access funding easily. This is where professionals such as Baldwins come in. We advise on the most suitable, available funding.”
So, what does Andrew see as Redcar and Cleveland’s key business sectors of the future? He replies: “On the tourism front I would like to see us build on the success of the recent beach music events in Redcar, the Summer Sounds event in Guisborough and the Food Festival in Saltburn and attract more visitors to the area.”
He adds: “I would like to see more affordable hotel provision to back this up. On the industry front we need to be market leaders in digital (exploiting Teesside University’s influence and expertise) and areas such as clean energy and advanced technologies.”
Finally, on to Brexit – threat or opportunity for Redcar and Cleveland? It’s no surprise to hear Andrew is erring towards the latter. “As someone whose dad worked at Teesport for over 20 years, I’m particularly excited about the prospect of a free port and the jobs and opportunities it would bring.”