CAMPAIGNERS were left dumbfounded today after Hartlepool missed out on 800 jobs.
The golden goal of a £125m superdeal appeared to be in Hartlepool’s grasp yesterday morning when rumours circulated that the town had won the Gamesa contract to build wind turbines.
By midday, Madrid-based Gamesa had instead signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of Leith in Edinburgh – Hartlepool’s late rival in the two-horse race.
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Town MP Iain Wright branded it “a blow for the economy and for Hartlepool’s potential”.
He is due to hold talks with Gamesa’s directors to find out why the town had lost out.
But Mr Wright added: “The fundamentals remain. We have got a skilled workforce that can provide high quality work for the offshore wind industry. This is a sad day but not the end.”
He said every one of the campaigners who fought to bring the jobs to Hartlepool would be “even more determined to win contracts in the future”.
Leith’s new contract is to make turbine blades and nacelles plants (the part of the wind turbine which contains the mechanics).
Gamesa chairman and chief executive Jorge Calvet said: “We hope to play a central role in strengthening the UK’s offshore wind energy sector and improving security of energy supply in the future.”
But Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond admitted: “It is bitterly disappointing. A hell of a lot of hard work has gone into this.
“But we always knew it would come down to a hard-nosed commercial decision and it appears that the figures stack up in favour of the Port of Leith.”
He admitted the eventual Gamesa decision was a total surprise and added: “There were rumours going all over the place that we had been successful. This is a huge blow.”
But once he’d got over the gutting blow, Mr Drummond was ready to fight back and said: “We shall dust ourselves off.
“What this has done is show the world that Hartlepool is more than capable of hosting the big wind farm manufacturers.
“It sends out a strong message that we are open for business and we are on the radar.”
Neil Kenley, director of business investment at Tees Valley Unlimited, which was one of the organisations battling to bring the jobs, said there would be some analysis done on why Gamesa had not chosen Hartlepool.
But he added: “We may never know, but this is not the end of our story.
“The offshore industry is reputed to be worth £50bn over the next five to 15 years and there is a big prize still to go at.
“We will start work on the next opportunity.”
He said the fact that Hartlepool got down to the last two for the Gamesa deal – from an initial list of ports across the UK and Europe – should stand them in good stead.
“The main thing is that we should start courting other big players now,” he added.
“A lot of other big players knew we were talking to Gamesa and they probably didn’t enter into conversation with us because of that.”
Kevin Rowan, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said the decision “risks becoming part of a worrying trend where the North-East is losing out to sites north of the Border.”
He said the North-East had the “skills, workforce and vision to be a European leader in offshore wind and green manufacturing”, but it would lose out because “the Conservative-led government at Westminster has put the North-East at a competitive disadvantage to the Scottish Parliament”.