One of the driving forces for the North East's growth as an international gateway for trade and investment has told BUSINESSiQ there is huge potential here  - 'I couldn’t think of a region better placed.'

The Northern Echo: Charlie Nettle of AV Dawson GroupCharlie Nettle of AV Dawson Group (Image: Press release)

Charlie Nettle is Managing Director Designate at AV Dawson group, which owns and operates Port of Middlesbrough, as Gary Dawson moves to a role as chair of the Group.

Charlie says the region is the perfect place to develop an exporting strategy, but that businesses need to plan carefully as they decide where exporting goods and services sits in their list of priorities.

"I think this depends on your business model, the products you sell and your target markets. But you also need to consider goals of the business and external market conditions," he said.

"Before considering where exporting lies on the priorities list, companies should look at their business plans and strategy, especially the long-term strategic goals and evaluate the importance of diversification and whether market expansion or exporting would help a business achieve these objectives."

As the disscussion on exporting from the region grows, Charlie and his team will be hosting the next Level Up live event from the Northern Echo. The discussion at the Group's Middlesbrough headquarters on September 28 is titled The Gateway to International Markets, and features a VIP guest, Keirra Smith, Deputy Director of the Department of Business and Trade’s Programme and Insight & Operations Teams.

  • There are still a few seats left - to register for your free ticket, just CLICK HERE

Charlie says the region's success is gaining momentum, making it the ideal place for a business to grow.

"Thorough market research should be done to identify export markets and you would need to have a good understanding of the regulatory and compliance requirements associated with exporting to different countries," he said.

The Northern Echo: Port of MiddlesbroughPort of Middlesbrough (Image: Press release)

"Exporting goods and services should be a strategic decision carefully based on the assessment of business goals, market opportunities, resources and risk tolerance.

"However, if a business is prioritising exporting goods or services, then there is arguably no better place than Teesside to do this, especially because of the Teesside Freeport, of which Port of Middlesbrough is a part of, as a secondary customs zone.

"The region has seen significant investment over the past few years, especially the Teesside area. I think there is huge positivity and a real sense of ambition, with everyone trying to work collaboratively towards the same goal.

"There has been a lot of focus on the region, especially with the designation of the Teesside Freeport and the relocation of the government departments to Darlington. This has created a new level of energy and confidence among the local business community and more widely.

"Now is the time we need to capitalise on these opportunities. Without doubt, there is huge potential to come, especially around the green revolution. The energy transition, including carbon capture, hydrogen and offshore wind, is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for us and I couldn’t think of a region better placed to capitalise on this."

It has been another busy year at Port of Middlesbrough, covering structure changes, skills and expansion, as Charlie explained.

​"We started the year by announcing changes within our board of directors for the AV Dawson group, which owns and operates Port of Middlesbrough. This saw Gary Dawson, the owner of the business, moving to a role as chair of the AV Dawson Group and John Young become deputy chair. Craig Lloyd stepped into John Young’s former position as group financial director, Gareth Jones joined the business as property and legal director and Andrew Watkins remains as infrastructure and operations director. Finally, Louise Croce, former head of human resources took on a new board position as people and culture director.

This year we have also launched the AV Dawson Leadership Academy, with the aim to help existing and future managers develop their skills

"We are also nearing the completion of a four-year plan to develop the business’s group structure, this will formally complete in October this year when Port of Middlesbrough becomes a limited company in its own right. This final company will sit alongside three recently established subsidiaries under the AV Dawson parent company - AV Dawson Transport, ships agency Cockfield Knight and the business’ onsite logistics business, AVD Industrial and Port services.

"Moving to a group structure was about creating more opportunity for individual colleagues, while also reducing business risk - by not delivering the diverse portfolio of port services, rail logistics, onsite logistics, ships agency, road haulage and property through one company.

The Northern Echo: Part of the AV Dawson sitePart of the AV Dawson site (Image: Press release)

"This year the company has also made two further land acquisitions close to the main Port of Middlesbrough site. This will add a further eight acres to our footprint. These areas have now been remediated and will be offered as ‘Freeport-ready’ zones within the Teesside Freeport, with potential for a range of development or storage opportunities.

"This year we have also launched the AV Dawson Leadership Academy, with the aim to help existing and future managers develop their skills. The academy will equip colleagues with additional skills, while preparing them for future succession. It’s supported with personality profiling and bespoke development programmes which include one-to-one coaching sessions, masterclasses, guest speakers and an online resource portal.

"We have also been awarded ‘Good Business Charter’ status. The accreditation encompasses ten commitments and businesses must meet all of these to receive Charter status. The components include paying the real living wage, commitments to customers, employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion and environmental responsibilities, among other benchmarks.

"The accreditation also provides us with a strong foundation to support the delivery of our Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy – which is a project we are undertaking currently.

"However, this year hasn’t been without its challenges. As is the case for many businesses, rising energy costs and inflationary pressures, culminating in the cost of living crisis, have really brought expenditure into focus. We have put initiatives in place to review this, including a company wide ‘Efficiency challenge’, but it continues to be a real challenge."


The full line-up has now been revealed for the International Gateway event on September 28

Our panel will be:

Phil Clements, Director of Energy Infrastructure at SSE

Felipe Rocha, General Manager of Europe Trucks OEMs for Cummins

Dan Kitchen, CEO of IT solutions firm razorblue

Peter Snaith, partner at transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson

Sarah Slaven, Managing Director of Business Durham

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

James Davison, International Trade Manager at North East England Chamber of Commerce.

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