It’s fair to say 2021 has been a rollercoaster.

As coronavirus restrictions eased and our brilliant local businesses reopened again, after returning to a more normal way of life we have now been hit with another unexpected variant of the virus, putting public health front-and-centre once again.

Despite the undoubted challenges this poses, I have no doubt that we’re in a better position than this time last year to protect our region, our local people and their businesses.

The biggest coup of 2021, and one we’re primed to capitalise on is the Teesside Freeport, the UK’s biggest and the first to be operational. After four years of tireless campaigning for their introduction we’ve now got the tools at our disposal to become a truly global, outward-looking region.

Impacting on every area of the region, at sites like Teesworks, the Port of Hartlepool and Teesside International Airport, we can help attract new investment from around the globe.

Over at Teesworks, thanks to the Freeport designation we are progressing the first project to help us become the number one place in the UK for offshore wind, with GE Renewable Energy’s mammoth wind turbine blade manufacturing plant. Following a £107million loan from the UK Infrastructure Bank, the first 200m of the South Bank heavy lift quay will also be complete next year, with 450m coming in early 2023.

Elsewhere on Teesworks, I pledged that all the major structures on site will be demolished by August next year, and we’re still on track to meet that deadline thanks to an accelerated programme that’s helped create hundreds of jobs. Work will continue on Net Zero Teesside Power’s carbon capture utilisation and storage project, with bp awarding the first engineering contracts ahead of appointing a development consortium in 2023. In the meantime, we’ll be remediating that land ready for construction work to begin.

Next year will see the Darlington Economic Campus, another amazing coup, officially established. It will house hundreds of civil servants from major departments such as the Treasury, the Department for International Trade, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Office of National Statistics and Competition and Markets Authority.

Read more: Rishi Sunak on why his team love working in Darlington

When up and running, it will mean local people can work at the heart of Government in some of the most important departments without having to leave the region they love and call home.

Of course, there is still the coronavirus omicron variant to contend with, but businesses based here will continue the fightback next year and beyond.

From early in the pandemic CPI has worked closely with the Vaccine Taskforce on scaling up the manufacturing processes for the lifesaving vaccines. They have also been awarded £5million to support the creation of a ‘vaccine library’ to help in the rapid development of vaccines to protect against such variants as they emerge. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has also been primed to manufacture all 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine when it’s approved, and is now investing £400million in its site to boost its capabilities further.

We’ve secured mammoth opportunities and put in place ambitious schemes, going further faster to boost our businesses of all sizes and create the good-quality, well-paid jobs local people deserve. So let’s raise a glass to 2022 and a new year of prosperity for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.


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