THE North-East was once the powerhouse of British industry, the engine of the country that even supplied its own fuel in the coal we extracted from beneath our feet, writes James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive.

Our riversides rained sparks as the ship after ship was launched from the region and Middlesbrough was knows as “Ironopolis”, shipping steel across the world.

I read with interest the fantastic article in The Northern Echo last week on crane-makers and NECC members Liebherr; how they are in good health and also keeping alive proud traditions in an industry that was once the mainstay of the Wearside economy.

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The following day we had the fantastic news that SSI has turned a profit for the first time in over two years since re-igniting the blast furnace at the former Teesside Cast Products works in Redcar.

These industries with such strong traditions in our region are what has given the North East its reputation for engineering, manufacturing and hard work.

It is these positive signs that are helping turn the optimism we have seen blossom in the last year into the confidence among businesses to invest, grow and recruit new workers.

We have seen incredible results in the NECC Quarterly Economic Survey that undoubtedly prove the feelgood factor is back among business.

More record results this quarter sees more companies investing in training, in recruitment and in their own facilities – in short, they are investing in the future and preparing themselves to seize the opportunities the recovery is presenting.

I can never be accused of failing to accentuate the positive, I am an undoubted glass is half full man, particularly where our glorious region is concerned. But even the most hardened cynic can’t fail to appreciate the current groundswell in business confidence we are seeing across the private sector.

Since the start of the year, we have seen GVA growth outstripping the rest of the country, a trend that has seen QES results heading in the right direction, rising employment levels – we have more people employed in the region at the moment than ever before – and a continued export performance that must be the envy of the rest of the country.

The spirit of togetherness across our business community is something to behold and the NECC Policy team is working hard to harness this shared passion to further bolster our lobbying priorities and build on the successes of the past two years.

Of course there are many issue to overcome, unemployment and youth unemployment being two worrying examples, but there is a growing feeling we are now heading in the right direction and more importantly, we are all pulling in the same direction…we must not let up in our efforts.