ONE year ago this month, I had the honour of being elected Tees Valley Mayor, representing the area I have always been proud to call home.

To mark this anniversary, I delivered a speech at major Teesside logistics firm AV Dawson. The industrial setting provided a fitting backdrop to the speech, in which I laid out my record of delivery – and a promise of more.

Of course, none of this could have come about without devolution. It has brought with it a real opportunity for our region to prosper and it is a system which I believe in wholeheartedly. No one knows this area better than the people who live here.

Nobody knows the challenges our region faces better than us, and how we can benefit most from our new opportunities. Devolution gives us the power to look locally for innovative solutions and solve our own problems, combining knowledge with the drive move forward and serious financial backing from the Treasury.

It is thanks to this local decision making that we have gained such traction over the past year, and have been able to lay the foundations for real change. Since May 2017, we have invested £51m in a wide range of projects throughout Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Hartlepool, supported the creation of 4,000 jobs and secured and extra £200m in funding from central Government.

My first year has been a busy one, no doubt, but this is only the beginning of the Tees Valley’s journey. We are now on the radar for Government and private sector investment, and it is a large part of my role to bring in new employers but also to encourage our home grow entrepreneurial talent.

That’s why I used my first anniversary as mayor to announce a £13m fund to support small and medium-sized businesses to grow. They are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs every time they scale up.

Keeping the region moving requires mayor investment, which I was I announced £25m towards the cost of completely redeveloping Darlington station, and put it on the record that talks with the owners of Teesside Airport have progressed to the stage of signing a non-disclosure agreement, alongside signing a similar agreement with a potential operator.

I also launched A £3m work experience initiative that will link every one of the 100,000 young people in the region’s schools with real local businesses and to prepare them for job opportunities.

Last week I led a Trade Mission to Japan, Thailand and South Korea. It was fantastic to meet major companies who have already based their operations in the Tees Valley, as well as a great opportunity to promote our area to potential new investors.

During our trip, I led a delegation including South Tees Development Corporation CEO Jonathan Bretherton and my vice-chairs Steve Gibson and Sue Jeffrey to meet the three Thai banks who own the former SSI steelworks site. This meeting went well and an agreement in principle was reached with the banks to transfer the SSI assets and land to our development corporation.

Twelve months ago I was given a clear direction, to bring about the change that the people of the Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool want to see. The seeds have been sown and this transformation is starting to take root.