As a part of our region’s industrial heritage - Redcar’s former steelworks’ blast furnace - is demolished, Mary Lanigan, Leader of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and steelworker’s daughter, considers our industrial past and future in this exclusive article for The Northern Echo.

The dark, sad day Redcar steelworks closed burns in my memory and the memories of thousands of other steel family folk in the place I’m so proud to call ‘home.’

First and foremost, that 2015 day was heart-breaking because it meant 1,700 good people directly employed at the SSI steelworks lost their jobs along with many more who owed their living indirectly to it.

And it was sad because steel is in our blood. Steel and industry - and the sheer, hard work it represents -  is part of who we are not only in Redcar and Cleveland, but the Tees Valley and the entire region.

The demolition of the furnace, an iconic sight in our region for more than 40 years, is symbolic of the decline of steel and, trust me, no-one will feel the emotion more than me, the proud daughter of a proud steelworker, when it falls.

But the demolition is symbolic of something else too, something much more hopeful. After all, the industrialists of the past were not too sentimental when they exploited the iron ore in the Eston Hills and radically altered the landscape forever to employ thousands of people.

Now we must have our own vision and grab our chance to be at the forefront of a new, green industrial revolution.

If that sounds like wishful thinking, let me point to some of the very real developments happening right now on the vast industrial site, Teesworks, which once contained the steelworks, as well as the neighbouring hugely successful Teesport and wider area.

Allow me to name just a few. We have Net Zero Teesside, a multi-million pound project involving some of the world’s largest energy and fuel industries will capture 10 million tonnes of carbon from the area's chemical and processing industry which will eventually create up to 6,000 jobs.

We are seeing progress in the creation of what will be the world’s largest wind turbine monopile factory, a £300 million super structure which will also create thousands of work opportunities.

And we are seeing the UK’s first lithium hydroxide processing plant at Wilton International which it is expected will supply electric vehicle grade Lithium Hydroxide to the UK and European automotive markets creating hundreds of new employment opportunities in the process.

These green industry projects – to name a few – are only part of the success story growing here in Redcar and Cleveland with huge investment (including the creation of a polyhalite fertilizer mineral processing plant) being increasingly attracted to Teesport, our Freeport status area and our very pro-business approach.

And, of course, we still have a fantastic steel industry here in Redcar and Cleveland at Skinningrove and Lackenby which is going from strength to strength.

However, in future it won’t be just one industry we rely on but many as we develop a diverse economy providing good jobs for generations to come.

So, when that furnace comes down I will have a tear in my eye…but also hope in my heart.