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Wind set fair for Tata Steel
THE North-East energy industry can help to lead the country out of recession and into prosperity, according to the Shadow Industry Minister.
MP Iain Wright made the comment as Tata Steel opened its new £2m Offshore Processing Centre in Hartlepool to produce sections of pipe that will be used to make foundations for offshore wind turbines.
The investment, which will help to safeguard the futures of 700 workers employed at the firm's pipe mill, is part of a bid by Europe's second biggest steelmaker to diversify into the renewable energy sector.
About 40 industry leaders had flown in from across Europe for a presentation at Hartlepool College of Further Education and a tour of Tata's new facility, which is set to further strengthen the region's offshore supply chain.
Mr Wright, MP for Hartlepool believes that a window of opportunity has opened up for companies in this region which must be exploited or contracts would be snapped up by rivals overseas.
"If the Government is serious about rebalancing the economy away from financial services towards manufacturing they need to look at industries where we are good at now and where we can compete globally in the future," he said. "The North-East has strength in manufacturing, engineering, offshore and renewables, including the nuclear sector which needs to be supported. We should be leading this country out of recession into prosperity. We're not and it really worries me.
"Businesses tell me that what they need is certainty. I'm not convinced that the Government is going in a clear enough direction that gives firms the confidence to invest.
The call came as the cabinet continues to debate whether new gas-fired power stations should be favoured above renewable energy, with billions of pounds in potential investment hanging on the outcome.
Mr Wright continued: "I fear we could be sitting here in 10 years and wondering why all of the work went to Holland. We need to grasp this opportunity while we have the chance.
"I'm not on about protectionism, but to ensure that we support efficient, innovative companies like Tata Steel, that can benefit from lucrative opportunities in the North Sea. From that comes well paid, highly skilled jobs that are essential for the future of our economy."
Deirdre Fox, sales and marketing director for energy and power at Tata Steel, called for cross party support in renewables which she predicted would be one of the big economic growth areas for the next 10 to 20 years.
To support its latest venture Tata has penned an agreement with German steel tube producer Eisenbau Kramer (EBK) to create what it said would be the most "comprehensive and cost-competitive package" in the market.
Joanne Leng, deputy chair of Energi Coast, the cluster group for region's offshore renewables sector, said: "I am delighted that Tata Steel is investing in improving supply chains for offshore wind, as this in turn will undoubtedly lead to future business opportunities for other regional businesses.
"It is also a further sign that the North-East is well positioned to service the North Sea and European offshore wind farm developments for the future."