Four years ago Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool stood on a precipice. We could look forward to a brighter future, a future of investment pouring into the area and good-quality well-paid jobs being created. Or we could go on as we had before - ignored and forgotten. Jobs leaving. Investment drying up. Local people worrying about whether our great region would ever catch up.

When I stood on the podium at the Thornaby Pavilion in May 2017 as the Tees Valley’s first directly elected mayor I pledged to deliver the brighter future I’d promised, that we would get the investment, that we’d see jobs return and new industries arrive. And yes, make sure our voice was heard in the corridors of power, in Whitehall and Number 10.

My pledge to save Teesside Airport from closure was mocked by the very same MPs and councillors who stood by and did nothing as Peel ran it into the ground. They said saving our airport couldn’t be done, and that we should accept the decline.

But I knew the passion local people have for our airport - I knew everyone in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool would back our airport given half a chance. Been able to announce that we’d saved it, something that couldn’t have happened without the support of local people getting behind my campaign, was one of my proudest moments as a Teessider. Because I knew a thriving airport was key to powering forward investment, jobs and growth. But even today Labour thinks every pound invested in our airport is a pound wasted.

Without a doubt the biggest challenge back in 2017 was turning around the fortunes of the former Redcar steelworks. For over two years the site had languished since that heart-breaking day when the last shift left the site for the final time. I was determined to unleash the huge potential of the site, so I made a promise to our former steelworkers and communities across Redcar that we’d bring jobs back to the site as quickly as possible. Since then, we’ve made huge progress. We’ve taking control of all the land. We’ve created hundreds of good-quality, well paid jobs. We’re seeing huge investments that will create thousands of jobs. And yes, former steelworkers are back on site working just minutes away from home once again. We’ve made progress, but there’s a lot more to do.

When it comes to jobs the Teesside Freeport has the potential to be truly transformational for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. Over the next 5-years it will create 18,000 skilled, good-quality, well-paid jobs for local workers. These are not jobs that might be created in the future, they are being created now. GE Renewables are building a state-of-the-art blade factory for offshore wind turbines in Teesside only because my plan for the Teesside Freeport was given the green light. This will create over 2,000 jobs and put Teesside at the forefront of the UK’s clean energy revolution.

Securing Treasury North for our region was a huge coup, beating off competition from Newcastle, Leeds and Bradford. It means that the most powerful department in Government will soon beat with a Darlington heart. With the Treasury on our doorstep and senior civil servants living here, our children will grow up with the confidence that a top government job is within reach and that such a top career can be built right here in our great region.

The last four years have been huge for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. We’re making progress so let’s not go back to square one. Let’s stick with the plan that’s working.