GROWING the North-East economy should be led by the region’s own entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats in Whitehall, the UK’s Minister for Business has said.

In his first speech in the region since taking up the role, Michael Fallon, who is a former Darlington MP, told the North-East business community economic growth was best driven by companies, local authorities and Government working together, with business people who understood the challenges and needs at the helm.

Mr Fallon was speaking ahead of the opening of a two new facilities which have benefitted from Regional Growth Fund money – manufacturing firm Tharsus, in Blyth in South Northumberland, which was awarded a grant of £690,000 for a £3m investment in its plant and equipment and steel rope manufacturer Bridon International, which secured £2.2m towards a new £30m state-of-the-art facility at Neptune Quay in Newcastle.

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The Tharsus project to manufacture a powerful washing unit, used by Formula 1 teams, will create 80 jobs, while the Bridon investment, which will create a plant producing the largest and most complex ropes in the world, is expected to create 50 jobs and safeguard another 150 jobs at the company’s nearby Willington Quay facility.

Speaking to members of the North-East Entrepreneurs Forum on his visit, Mr Fallon said: "It is clear to me that if we don't focus on enterprise and don't salute the people who risk their own money to create jobs for other people, our children aren't going to have jobs and we are not going to be able to compete. We have got to get behind enterprise.

"Government should focus on making sure money is flowing through the banking system and to get this stuff out through the door to the firms that need it, and that we have a sufficient pool of highly skilled people to tap into," he said.

"I'm an enterprise guy; I'm not into public money. The reason why we spent £1bn on Regional Growth Fund grants in October was to leverage six times that amount in private investment."

He said the grants from the fund were supporting the resurgence of UK manufacturing.

“This is a big day for the North-East. The Regional Growth Fund is playing a pivotal role in supporting British manufacturing. Government support for Tharsus and Bridon in the North-East has given both firms the confidence they need to invest, hire skilled staff and grow.

“Not only are both projects creating much needed jobs for the area but the multiplier effect should not be underestimated in attracting investment and new business to the North-East. Seeing both of these projects come to completion is very encouraging and I wish Tharsus and Bridon every success for the future.”