A FRESH drive to make the North-East a national leader in creative industries began yesterday.

Construction is under way on the £4m Gateshead International Business Centre (GIBC).

It was designed by Gateshead Council, in partnership with regional development agency One NorthEast.

Deputy council leader, Councillor Ian Mearns, said: "There is an increased level of interest being shown in Gateshead, by large and small companies operating in international markets.

"This project is designed to respond to that interest and has the potential to create 150 jobs locally, while placing a quality, sustainable building on a strategic site within the town centre."

The 2,090sq metre site has already attracted interest from overseas companies keen to establish themselves in the North-East. It will also offer facilities and support for new and young businesses, as part of Gateshead's Cultural Regeneration Programme.

Based in Askew Road, in the centre of Gateshead, the four-storey building comprises 51 offices, as well as meeting rooms, a reception, utility rooms and ICT facilities.

It will also have a number of high-specification energy-saving features designed to generate energy from the sun, recover heat and encourage efficient use of heating, lighting and electricity.

Coun Mearns said: "The building will benefit from association with projects that continue to get global recognition and offer excellent facilities unrivalled anywhere else in the region."

The partners hope it will build on a pilot project that brought 34 businesses to Gateshead in the past three years.

Alan Clarke, chief executive of One NorthEast, said: "By 2010, it is expected that a growing number of creative industries will prosper in our cities, towns and some rural communities, with a steady flow of new companies starting up in the region using advanced technologies to serve global markets.

"The North-East has much to offer investors in the way of educational resources, culture, technology, housing and a committed workforce and this centre will have an important role in the creation of a diverse and knowledge driven economy."

Published: 23/09/2003