HARTLEPOOL could be on the verge of a “staggering” turnaround in its fortunes, a regeneration expert predicted.
The future could be so rosy, the town could be close to having full employment within two years, said Damien Wilson, the Hartlepool Borough Council assistant director of regeneration and planning.
He admitted the scenario was some way off, but major industrial developments could mean thousands of new jobs becoming reality by 2014.
Upbeat Mr Wilson told the Mail the town could even be the place that bucks the doom and gloom covering the rest of the country. I would say we are reasonably well placed with good prospects and if they manifest into reality, they could cushion the blow and we could buck the trend, and that dark cloud.
“I am quietly confident.”
He highlighted the business developments which could affect the town.
l Hartlepool has secured a 33 per cent share of the Tees Valley-wide Enterprise Zone, potentially creating up to 15,000 jobs. The Queens Meadow, Port Estates, and Oakesway areas of town are all included in the 12-site zone.
l Spanish wind firm giants Gamesa has shortlisted the town as one of two potential sites for a factory to make turbines. It would create 1,500 jobs directly and another 1,500 in the supply chain, said Mr Wilson, if it wins the deal ahead of Leith in Scotland.
l Five firms – Able, PD Ports, Huntsman, J&B Recycling and Heerema – won contracts in the second round of bidding to the Regional Growth Fund, creating hundreds of jobs.
Able received £2.2m backing towards a £16m scheme to develop a dry dock, potentially creating 230 direct jobs.
l JDR Cables, which has more than £100m of contracts on its order books, predicts its workforce was still on course to eventually reach 200 people from its current levels of 160 people.
Mr Wilson said: “That number of jobs would massively change the economy of Hartlepool overnight.
“For a place with a problem unemployment rate and a problem youth unemployment rate, it would change it into a town with almost full employment with more prospects around the town.”
Full employment is the position where all or nearly all persons willing and able to work at the prevailing wages and working conditions are able to do so.
Last month’s Jobseeker’s Allowance figures show there were 4,267 people claiming the benefit in town or 7.3 per cent of the working population. Figures also show 1,405 18 to 25-year-olds are signing on in town.
Mr Wilson said that, if every potential deal for Hartlepool became reality: “The impact would be staggering. The demand for retail would increase and it would put money into people’s pockets.
“We are really well placed. Hartlepool is really punching above its weight which is a confirmation of the council working closely with the private sector.
“If we add the jobs from other investments, we are talking about thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of capital investment over the next few years.
“None of this is a done deal, but it has positioned us very well to attract further investment.”