Whilst putting together the blog for the website, I started to think about enterprise and entrepreneurs and about what made me want to be involved with this group.
I was born and brought up in Middlesbrough and the surrounding area, and unlike most people don’t follow the Boro and am yet, still passionate about this area.
As with most people, I have discovered that where you are born influences in many instances the person you become.
Did you know that in (what’s now called) the Tees Valley in the Victorian times, this area had the most entrepreneurs and business owners per capita, than anywhere else in the country?
These people shaped not only the area but the Industrial Revolution in the UK and around the world.
Incidentally, this area gave birth to the Railways in the form of George Stephenson, the Friction Match in the form of John Walker and the Boro Renaissance in the form of Steve Gibson.
Whilst I think that all of these people were fantastic, my hero is someone whose name became synonymous with Middlesbrough, someone whose statute inspired me every time I passed it as a child in Albert Park.
Henry Bolckow was born in Sulten, Mickleberg in Germany. He worked as an accountant and foreign correspondent with a corn merchant in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1825. In Newcastle, he met John Vaughan and in 1839 they decided to form a business partnership and purchased six acres of land in Middlesbrough in 1840 for £1,800.
On 1st May 1841, they started operating as Brass and Iron Founders. In 1846 they built blast furnaces at Witton Park, County Durham for smelting iron ore. Later in 1852, they built 3 blast furnaces in Middlesbrough to process local ironstone, some years later they owned a dozen blast furnaces in the area.
In 1853 Henry Bolckow was elected the 1st Mayor of Middlesbrough and in 1868 he bought 71 acres of land for the people of Middlesbrough and called it Albert Park. He also built churches, schools and hospitals.
Henry Bolckow died in 1878, in 1881 Lord Cavendish unveiled a statue of Henry in Middlesbrough as a memorial to the industrialist who had changed the economy of Middlesbrough and the Cleveland area.
Here’s the thing though. Whilst inspired by The Iron and Steel Magnets, I think they were both the best and the worst thing to happen to us as an area.
Because of their enterprises, we have fantastic parks, museums, buildings and vibrant towns, but we forgot.
We forgot and didn’t nurture our talent to be enterprising because they needed people to work in their factories. Generations of people serviced the industry and even to this day, we remain both indebted and reliant on them.
Recent news from the Corus plant shows what the effect the closure of a steel plant could potentially have on our area.
It is not all doom and gloom, we have an opportunity.
This opportunity means it’s now time for us all to rediscover our entrepreneurial talents. We have the hardest working, multi-skilled people in the country based in the Tees Valley.
We need to rediscover those latent skills and talents and put them to good use.
Let’s take a leaf out of these early pioneers’ books and say today that in the Tees Valley, Enterprise Renaissance starts here.
Not because new investment into the area has been given – it hasn’t.
Not because we are a government priority – we are not.
Not because we were named as the worst place to live – rubbish.
Not because people in Middlesbrough die younger – time for a change.
Let’s start today because we know we have that spark, a spark we were founded on and that spark is enterprise.
Join Us in making a difference.