Will's aspiration for Teesside

We must create more opportunities for Teessiders. When the Evening Gazette recently asked its readers their key priorities for a Teesside manifesto, support to bring big businesses to Teesside came out on top. We have seen big successes: the Tees Valley City Deal bringing new investment, new businesses coming, investment in carbon capture technology - and I know from meeting with the excellent head of our Local Enterprise Partnership, Tees Valley Unlimited, they are brimful of ideas for more. Driving such investment is an essential part of creating more and better opportunities for our young and Teessiders of all ages.

Yet this is only one part of unlocking the opportunities Teesside can offer. I have been struck by a recent groundswell, in the form of frustration - and energy to unlock our potential - regarding tourism. We only need look around at our rolling hills, remarkable views and wonderful beaches. We need to take care of these - and I was proud to join the Guisborough & East Cleveland Sea Cadets in cleaning up the beach at Skinningrove recently. Most of all though, we need to get the word out. Making more of our tourism potential became a large part of the discussion at the Guisborough Future Group which I held to discuss improving Guisborough, and it was the focus at the excellent Loftus ACCORD community meeting which I had the privilege of attending. Accordingly I also made it a key part of the agenda for the Loftus Future Group I organised recently.

We need people to know of East Cleveland’s ironstone story, and to experience it as the Culture Minister recently did in visiting the Skinningrove Museum with me recently. We need people to follow the de Brus trail to Guisborough’s twelfth century Priory, not just to stop off to use the facilities on the coach trail to Scarborough. Where we need investment, I am proud to fight for it. Only recently, the Captain Cook Museum received £500,000 to support its exhibitions.

There is work to be done in getting the word out. I met a great man recently who is working flat out to build the profile of Tees Valley Tourism. He showed me what happens if you search the Visit England website for ‘Middlesbrough’: only MIMA and the Esk Valley Railway come up. Great attractions both, but we’ve got more than this! Search ‘Teesside’ and you will find ‘Your Search Yielded No Results’, the same for ‘Guisborough’, while ‘East Cleveland’ will give you the Ironstone Museum but nothing else. I am getting actively involved in putting this right.

Whether it be our welcoming and expert environment for industrial businesses, our beautiful countryside or our area’s story of how the one has shaped the other – there is a sense we have so much potential to unlock. I am very excited about what we can achieve. I am excited too that there are so many people who are already working so hard to make Teesside’s tomorrow better than today. Local organisations, be they the National Citizen Service or the Guisborough & East Cleveland Sea Cadets to name but two, are opening up the world of possibilities open to our young people.

As Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland, I am excited at the contribution as Member of Parliament that can be made. There are great business who have great links with local schools: they go in and talk to the kids, and help them find opportunities when they leave school. Yet there are many other businesses who would like to do more but struggle to find an effective way of working with schools; while some schools tell me they desperately need their students to hear more from businesses about how to prepare for the working world, and to identify the path to take in life. This is an area where I can help. I have already held an Apprenticeship Fair to introduce young people to local businesses offering opportunities for apprentices. Most recently, I was delighted to invite the Minister for Apprenticeships, Nick Boles, to an event brilliantly hosted by Tees Components in Skelton, who have just won the Teesside Apprenticeship Award in the North East Business Awards 2015. Here the Minister was able to update great local businesses and to hear what more is needed. I promised then to do additional work to bring businesses and schools closer together.

We are on the way to unlocking our potential. One of my favourite sayings is “lead, follow or get out of the way!”. Leadership is needed in key areas; in other areas following and supporting brilliant work already under way will be best. So long as the focus remains on working with all parties to make steps forward then we will continue to make sure progress to unlocking Teesside’s full potential.