REPRESENTATIVES from US aircraft maker Boeing are in the North-East for talks with contractors over future deals that could bring thousands of jobs.

A delegation from the company was last night enjoying a traditional English pub meal with members of Northern Defence Industries (NDI).

The informal talks will be followed by a conference at the Reynolds Arena, in Darlington, tomorrow, when the US delegation will have the chance to meet representatives from the 170 companies across the region that make up NDI.

Gary Scott, NDI operations manager, said: "It is great to get such a high-profile outfit to the region.

"Boeing recognises that we represent a lot of capability in the defence and aerospace industries, but nothing beats one-to-one meetings.

"They potentially have a huge amount of money to spend. Hopefully, we can make a match between what they are looking for and what we can provide.

"But it is very early days and they are not coming with a contract in their pocket."

Boeing approached the group for a meeting, with a view to examining the potential for deals between the company and North-East defence and aerospace firms.

It is the second visit to NDI by a major US firm this year.

In March, United Defence courted NDI when it was planning to use the region as a European base for the construction of a naval super gun.

United Defence is in the running for a £500m contract to fit the missile launcher on the next generation of Royal Navy destroyers.