HARTLEPOOL’S hopes of a bright economic future took a blow in 2012 – and it was down to “a significant deterioration in the UK economy”, says a leading town expert.
Antony Steinberg, the Hartlepool Borough Council economic development manager, said a mixed 12 months had left the town “with uncertain prospects” although there are some bright spots.
Unemployment is rising and the position is particularly worrying with youth jobless rates on the increase, said Mr Steinberg.
Recent figures show 8.1 per cent of people in Hartlepool are jobless, compared to 5.5 per cent for the whole of the North-East and 3.8 per cent nationally.
That’s around 4,700 people in the town who are out of work and Mr Steinberg admitted: “It is a tough environment out there.”
He added: “We have seen a significant deterioration in the general performance of the economy.
“What we have to do is to make sure that we fight for what investment is there.
“We have to encourage local businesses to grow and we have to be successful in attracting European money into the economy.”
He said that was one of the bright spots with Hartlepool doing so well in winning support from the Regional Growth Fund.
Companies such as Huntsman secured support from the initiative. It is creating 90 new jobs and investing £15.5m in its Greatham site – boosted by a further £2.7m of Regional Growth Fund cash.
The project at Huntsman’s titanium dioxide manufacturing facility will see state-of-the-art equipment installed – ready for use by next summer.
Mr Steinberg said: “That scheme is well under way so there are some positives about.”
He also highlighted the first three significant developments announced for the town’s enterprise zone. Durable Technologies, which designs and makes energy efficient lighting systems, expanded into new premises within the enterprise zone which were four times as big as their previous base.
Earlier this year Omega Plastics and Propipe were the first companies to move into Queens Meadow Business Park – one of 12 enterprise zone sites created across the Tees Valley to boost the economy and create jobs.
Mr Steinberg added: “We have done very well in terms of enterprise zone status and we will always be hopeful of attracting further investment.”