By Carl Marshall – Durham County Council, Cabinet lead for Economic Regeneration

County Durham and the region offers opportunities for jobs and growth and we’re bucking the national trend for inward investment.  It’s imperative we bring them to fruition and promote them on a global scale.   

Public and private sector investment totalling £3.8 billon is paving the way for new, state-of-the-art business parks and allowing existing sites to expand with even more opportunities for businesses to make the North East their home.  

We’re helping companies across County Durham invest in the future and look for opportunities outside the region and worldwide.  Durham County Council and Business Durham, in partnership with the Department for Trade and Industry, recently hosted a trade mission to South Africa.  The mission of 15 businesses and 19 people was the largest mission from the North East to the KwaZulu-Natal region. We met local businesses from sectors including chemical, automotive and education.  South Africa has a well-developed economic infrastructure with opportunities in emerging markets such as agri-tech, infrastructure, defence, transport and healthcare. We’ve built strong links over the years and the trade mission provided an opportunity for businesses to build on these relationships.  We met with the Department for International Trade South Africa, the Trade Commissioners Residence and the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Durban KZN. It really showed us that international opportunities are out there and taking our message to face to face meetings is really worthwhile.

MIPIM gives us another platform for us to tell the world about what is on offer across the region.  Earlier this year, we made valuable connections with international business leaders with the power to bring thousands of jobs to our region.  Forrest Park, a £140 million development site in Newton Aycliffe was one of 11 projects featured in a national property portfolio. Planning permission has since been granted for Forrest Park and Jade Business Park at Seaham.  Still under construction, the multi-million-pound Jade scheme creates opportunities in the east of the county with A19 access, we’ve already announced our first tenant – Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Europe. 

In Sedgefield, NETPark, the north east’s leading science park is also expanding with Phase 3 bringing space for more businesses to join world leading technology firms such as CPI, Kromek and PolyPhotonix.  Durham’s an important regional capital and we’re focusing attention on our towns and villages across the county as well as developments in the city centre. We have an opportunity to develop Aykley Heads as a sought-after location with the potential to bring £400 million investment and up to 6,000 jobs.  Fintech and service businesses are already thriving there including Atom bank, Waterstons and Honcho.  

This year we’ve seen #durham19 as a Year of Culture.  Both our cultural programme and Durham University helps put Durham on the map regionally, nationally and internationally. It also makes for a great quality of life – international cricket, festivals, attractions such as The Auckland Project, Kynren, Beamish and Bowes Museum and, of course, the 10th anniversary Lumiere light festival which returns to Durham this November.  

That’s why spreading the word is so important.  Through an initiative called Durham Powered by People, businesses are speaking about the county positively to their networks and contacts.  Collaborating with more than 50 businesses, we’ve been promoting Durham as a place to start and grow a business. We’d like many more businesses to join and shout about Durham as a thriving place to live, work and invest – spreading the word benefits us all.