A THIRD-GENERATION distribution firm that once delivered coal with a £50 horse and cart is now working on £6m plans to strengthen its future and bolster North-East steelmaking.

AV Dawson, in Middlesbrough, is building a new storage area to house thousands of tonnes of steel for the car industry.

The 300-metre shed, accessed by rail, is expected to open in September.

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Handling up to 30,000 tonnes of steel coil from Tata Steel's south Wales operations, the store will hold products for car makers such as Sunderland's record-breaking Nissan plant.

Bosses have also secured a three-year deal with Tata to export products from the Teesside beam mill, in Redcar, to eastern Europe after increasing the size of its quayside to attract larger ships.

Gary Dawson, AV Dawson managing director, said the changes were a reflection of the company's continued growth, adding it was looking to create up to 30 new jobs to add to its 200-strong workforce this year.

He said: “A good sign of success is when demand for structural steel increases because that's when you know people have projects on the go.

“It's good to see the industry coming back with a vengeance and this investment will allow us to build on what we already offer Tata.

“We have three sheds for the automotive steel, and hold the steel until it is called off by the company needing it.

“Moving everything into one will help us reduce the need for shunting the trains between sheds.

“We will also be using waste heat from the adjoining Greenlight Power anaerobic digestion plant, which will dehumidify the shed and we're also using solar power on the roof.”

The 76-year-old company is ingrained in Teesside manufacturing history after being founded in 1938 when Arthur 'Vernie' Dawson paid £50 for horse Dina, her shoes and a cart to deliver coal.

Mr Dawson said he was delighted it was continuing its close links with regional business after signing the Tata export deal.

He said: “The changes to our quayside are bringing far more opportunities and we can now get vessels up to 10,000 tonnes.

“We used to work with a lot of steel from the old British Steel and now have the right quayside and the right plans in place, and even some of the original team that were involved in it years ago to work on it.

“This is an exciting phase and we want to get the right people in with the right skills to help us keep growing.”