FOR a man who's used to grilling Foreign Secretary's and Prime Ministers, business leaders from this country and abroad should prove little problem for Mark Lloyd.

His new role at Durham County Council may be a far cry from the corridors of power at the civil service, but he is more than willing to meet his new challenge.

The new director at the helm of County Durham's economic development and planning department believes the council should market itself better, and as an outsider he can see at first hand the problems.

"Before I came here I was ignorant as to what a beautiful and attractive county Durham is to live and work in," he said.

"We should be able to exploit that to our advantage and we need to sell the area more to the outside."

A former civil service high flyer, Mr Lloyd, 32, was part of the team that quizzed the Government in the Iran big gun affair of the early 90s.

The scandal which began in the region with the discovery at Teesport of the dismantled parts of a 40-metre-long howitzer barrel, caused a major embarrassment for the government of the day.

Now he's more interested in business parks than big guns, and although he admits he's no planner, he's relishing his new role.

He believes the county should develop a culture of lifelong learning to improve the skills of its residents.

"Today people are changing their career an average of five times, and it is quite rare for someone to stay in the same job all their lives," he said

"In the past people would have left education at 16, 18 or 21 and spent their working lives at the same place. Those days are gone and people now look for the opportunity to retrain as and when they see fit."

Born in Shropshire, Mr Lloyd sees many comparisons between the two counties and is keen to work closely with companies from the region and also promote inward investment to the 13 industrial parks of Durham.

He wants to see more of the Filtronics and Senstronics of the world hot-footing it to the county and hopefully staying a lot longer than Fujitsu.

"Our next major development is a new technology park at the former Winterton Hospital site, and I want this to attract some of the biggest names in new technology.

"In 1950, there were 134 mines in Durham employing 108,000 people.

"They have now closed and with unemployment at six per cent we have addressed the impact of that closure. Now we must build and develop for the industries of the future and that is exactly what we're doing in Durham County.