As you may or may not know, I was born and raised in Teesside, born in Middlesbrough and have lived here now for the most of my adult life. I have an affinity with the area and am really proud of my roots.
I have talked and blogged about my hero Henry Bolckow and the difference he made to my life and to the area in which I live and how he is a true example to be followed for all of the Entrepreneurs or business owners I know.
This has come more to my attention over the last few weeks because as you know Bolckow was one of the architects of Teesside (Middlesbrough particularly) becoming the “Infant Hercules” and not just the premier Steel making area in the UK but the worlds premier steel making operation.
It’s with a heavy heart, I write this blog, because Teesside looks like it is facing the reality of the Steelmaking industry in our local area disappearing altogether.
It’s devastating. Devastating for first and foremost the people who work in the industry, their families and our local area, the businesses, the supply chains and everyone else who was born and raised here. Our makeup, our DNA is bound up in the Steel Industry and what it has meant to all of us since the Victorian Times, an area, founded in the Steelworks.
It also highlights how bound up we have become in the Global Economy and how that, if we already didn’t know how that Economy and what happens in other countries has a knock on effect to us in our local area, this goes to prove it.
There are better qualified and educated people than me working in the Steel industry and the Government who will tell you all of the I am very sure “good reasons” why it makes no sense for the UK to invest in the steel industry and why market forces have to be able to dictate the success and failure of any business, and usually I would agree with those sentiments.
I say usually because I passionately don’t believe that is true for this particular industry in this particular area.
For me the answer lies in us, the people in the local area. Do I think we have the capacity to buy the Steelworks on our own, possibly not, but:
We have the capability; we have the years of experience, the passionate people and the skills to run the business successfully with the correct support.
Is it an impossible goal to think of the Steelworks in Teesside as a passionate collective of individuals making “Teesside Steel”. Wouldn’t this fit with the government’s localisation agenda, wouldn’t it make a huge difference to the local area. Wouldn’t it help to retain the talent in a local area which loses far too many of its young people, more to the point and it seems to be forgotten but wouldn’t this be the perfect example of “The big society”
Putting party politics and point-scoring aside isn’t the priority now for all parties of all colours to work together to make a difference and minimise the devastating impact this “pause, this mothballing, this closure” of Steel would make to our local area.
So how do we finance it?
We sell the Steel obviously; this means the government have a part to play by insisting on a levy on the import of foreign-made steel, even if it is only for the period of this parliament.
A tax on any UK based building project that uses foreign bought steel, encouraging the domestic market to use our home produced product.
I went to the US this year and discovered like us they have an overreliance of foreign investment, but they unlike us have a protectionist attitude to their US-based industries.
It’s an idea.
Here’s another, and this depends upon us who live the local area.
It’s not just the Steel Industry that is going to be devastated it’s also our local area. The local amenities, the local shops, the local businesses.
We can all show our support to our local area by buying Teesside. Stop today using the national chain stores and look to the local retail market. Look to local producers, look to independent local based businesses. Keep all of them going and keep the local Teesside pound in Teesside.
If we are going to avert disaster, keep our money local. The best way we can make a difference is by looking to ourselves to help solve the problem.
Make our voices heard, locally, nationally and internationally. Make use of our representatives and become vocal.
Teesside is amazing. It’s a brilliant place to live (it has its faults, don’t we all) and more than anything it has a rich history that we (none of us) can afford to disappear.
What am I doing?
I am putting my money where my mouth is, I’m not lecturing without doing. My pledge is, I will for the next six months (which includes Christmas), use only local independent retailers, food outlets and coffee shops.
Every time we buy something or contract with someone for our business, it will be from a locally based supplier, we will not use anyone outside of Teesside for the next six months.
We will work tirelessly to build the local capacity of businesses to grow and develop in Teesside and look to employ at least three other local people over the next six months.
What will you commit to and how else can we make a difference? Are my ideas correct, probably not, but they are given with the right intention. Write to your local MP daily if need be, giving ideas and ways we can make Teesside great again. Let them and make them, MP’s, Councillors and all elected bodies reflect our true views and let’s hold them to account.
We are the sum of a great whole if we work together.
If you are a business that needs help or an individual who has an idea, we would like to help: