WE remain in extremely challenging times because of the coronavirus which is having an impact on everybody, particularly those who have lost loved ones. I want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who continues to do their bit to prevent even more lives being lost.

But I also want to provide a little optimism and talk about the work I have been doing, safely and complying with the social distancing rules, to make sure Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can come out of this crisis stronger than ever before.

The current circumstances are unprecedented, but by putting in place the building blocks for a stronger economy, we will bounce back.

The successful outcome of the compulsory purchase inquiry into the former SSI steelworks is a significant moment. Not only is it a key step in my plan to bring steelmaking back to Teesside, it means the whole of the 4,500-acre site can be redeveloped and once again provide good quality, well-paid jobs for local people.

This isn’t the end of the work. It is just the beginning of our efforts and so I am pleased that, less than a week on from the judgement, Hartlepool-based Seymour Civil Engineering started site clearance and preparation work on land known locally as the Grangetown Prairie.

I’ve always said this redevelopment is about creating good quality, high skilled jobs for people across the whole of the Tees Valley, and there’s no better way of helping local businesses out of the current crisis than giving them work on one of Europe’s biggest regeneration projects.

It has also been another good month for our airport. Global aviation firm Willis has chosen Teesside International Airport as its location for a European aircraft maintenance base, after considering a number of locations across the continent. This will create many jobs.

Willis specialises in repairing and maintaining aircraft for some of the biggest airlines in the world. The company's decision is a massive coup for our airport and ensures its future looks bright despite the current difficulties facing the aviation industry.

I was also excited to see Amazon finally open its Darlington distribution centre earlier this month, creating an initial 1,000 jobs in the process, with more to come.

It may feel to those living in Darlington that it has been a feature of the town for some time now, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what a hugely significant moment it is. I’m working tirelessly to attract businesses to our area don’t come much bigger than Amazon!

And speaking of new jobs, only last week we had confirmation that British Steel is recruiting 40 new workers in Lackenby. The steeliness in the workers on Teesside must have impressed the bosses at British Steel just as much as it does me, and I urge anyone looking for work to apply for one of these new roles – we want local jobs to be filled by local people.

Our focus remains on protecting our NHS and saving lives, but it is important to get our economy moving again when it is safe to do so, and I am pleased that once again here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, we are leading the way.