THERE is an irony in what is happening at the mouth of the Tees. Land is laid out for futuristic green industries like wind turbine manufacture and biomass energy generation, and there are warehouses for supermarket chains to service the retail sector.
But, suddenly, old-fashioned steelmaking returns – an industry with a history of century-and-a-half behind it – and there are hundreds of jobs.
In one blast of a furnace, our annual balance of payments deficit with Thailand – an important emerging economy – is wiped out.
You can see the tentacles of prosperity spread: as our new-look Jobs & Business supplement reports today, Teesport has taken on 80 people to look after the increase in shipping.
This is Britain manufacturing and exporting its way out of trouble, and the Government must ask itself if its Regional Growth Fund and its Enterprize Zones are really all it can do to promote growth in this old-fashioned sector.
You can also see the new-look of our global economy. When ironmaking began on Teesside all those years ago, the iron ore came out of the Cleveland Hills, the coal came from beneath the Durham fields and the two were brought together by a railway out of Darlington.
Today, as the steel sails out to Thailand, it passes ships bringing in iron ore from South Africa and coal from South America and Australia.
This is the global nature of our world.
Lord Digby Jones argues in our supplement that it doesn’t matter where these companies are based as long as they provide jobs in the North-East. We accept this argument and welcome with open arms the Nissans, Hitachis and SSIs which are giving us such a boost of confidence, although we do wonder how we, the British, lost the knack – and therefore the financial rewards – of managing global manufacturing businesses.
And, of course, this global picture laid out before us at the mouth of the Tees explains how ripples emanating from a faraway place like Greece can break in huge waves over an island like Britain.