An ill wind can still blow good


FRIDAY’S news about Gamesa deciding to choose Leith over Hartlepool as their preferred port for investment came as a bitter blow.

Many months of hard work had gone into the bid to attract Gamesa to Hartlepool. However their final decision came down to the commercials and they have said that Leith was slightly cheaper for them and the deciding factor was the existing relationships Gamesa already have in Scotland.

I can’t pretend I am not disappointed but I honestly don’t think that anyone who supported PD Ports in their efforts could have done anything more to further Hartlepool’s case.

The council, Tees Valley Unlimited, Hartlepool College of Further Education and a number of Government departments made a monumental effort to provide PD Ports with the funding, the answers, the evidence and the support they needed in their negotiations with Gamesa and sadly, we just fell short.

The disappointment won’t last long though. I think everyone has learned some invaluable lessons throughout this process and the experience will stand us in an extremely positive position as we look to attract another big player in the wind industry.

Most, if not all of the world’s biggest players in the off shore wind industry and looking to steal a march on their competitors in this emerging market.

The United Kingdom is in an ideal location for these companies to locate and manufacture wind turbines and they are actively looking for suitable locations around the coast.

Gamesa was the first to show their hand and because they went early, they effectively had the pick of the very best locations in the UK.

Hartlepool came a very close second on their shortlist and, by my reckoning that means we should be right towards the top of everyone else’s list when their time comes to invest.

This process has certainly put Hartlepool on the map in the offshore renewables sector and now that we are back on the market so to speak, we will definitely be on the radar of the major competitors in this industry.

They are now well aware that Hartlepool is very much open for business. I have always said we were not putting all of our eggs in one basket with Gamesa and indeed PD Ports have been speaking to five or six companies with a similar interest.

Now that we know where we stand with Gamesa, I fully expect to see talks with other companies moving on a pace and I will look forward to supporting PD Ports and meeting some of these companies in the near future.

Hartlepool has all of the pieces in place to offer one or more of these off shore wind turbine manufacturers a very good home for the next 20 or 30 years at least. Our location is excellent for a start.

We are actually the closest port to the Dogger Bank, which will be the site of a huge wind farm. We have an easy access, deep water port which has plenty of land on which to build.

Hartlepool and the Tees Valley have taken full advantage of the Government’s new policies around economic development and we have established Enterprise Zone and have already benefitted immensely from the Regional Growth Fund.

The College of FE will more than rival any other college in the country when it comes to producing a workforce for the future in the renewables sector and other emerging markets.

A large part of the supply chain that would be needed is already in place and we undoubtedly have the skills and entrepreneurship here to be able to quickly fill any gaps.

We may be disappointed by Gamesa’s decision but we certainly should not be disheartened.

I’m often told that those who fail their driving test the first time around always turn out to be the best drivers.

We may have failed to attract Gamesa on this occasion but we will definitely attract a company of a similar stature in the not too distant future, I’m sure of it.

Until then, we will continue to promote the town within the renewables industry and show that Gamesa’s loss will very much be someone else’s gain.