Business leaders’ verdict in identity debate
Jul 27 2010 by Karen McLaughlan, Evening Gazette – Read article online
We are Teesside – that’s the verdict of local business leaders when it comes to the region’s identity.
As well as a strong Teesside, the message also came that we need to be part of a strong North-east to take the region forward. Business leaders also overwhelmingly rejected the Tees Valley brand at a meeting held by the Evening Gazette and the Institute of Directors last night.
Members of the local business community were asked to attend the event and give their verdict on the Gazette’s identity survey. Almost 2,000 people recently completed the survey – with just over half opting for the name Teesside as the one to describe the place where they live.
Those responding to the survey also gave the name Tees Valley a resounding thumbs down. The sentiments were echoed at last night’s event with an almost unanimous rejection of the Tees Valley brand.
Many agreed that having a clear, unified brand was essential to help the region continue to grow and prosper. Almost all believed in a strong Teesside within a strong North-east region as the best way to move the area forward.
Stockton-born Robin Bloom, head of legal functions at Gibson O’Neill on Teesside – the company built by Middlesbrough FC chairman Steve Gibson – said: “We don’t have an identity that everyone is behind. The reality is people have never got behind the idea of Tees Valley.”
He added it was also key to be part of a strong North-east, though – with the “bigger regional picture” just as important.
Businessman and Wynyard Hall owner Sir John Hall said: “We need an identity to be a sub-region, it’s all about leadership.
“If we’re not united, we are weak.”
Alan Ransome, who runs a Middlesbrough-based sporting goods business and is chairman of Ormesby Table Tennis Club, said “I’ve been disappointed for a long time. Wherever I go I have to explain where Middlesbrough or Teesside is.
“That puts us at a serious disadvantage to other major centres in the North.
“When it comes to Leeds or Manchester, people know where they are.
“Our area is losing out badly because it has no identity, we’re lost.”
He added: “We need one name we can all agree on – one name we can all get behind.”
New Century Inn’s chairman Alistair Arkley, who was previously chairman of the Tees Valley Partnership, said the Tees Valley brand was born out of a need to bring the five local authority areas together under one title.
“Tees Valley was never meant to be for the image of the area.”
The Gazette’s identity survey also showed relatively strong support for traditional counties and for people identifying closely with their own town.
A total of 60.4% agree that Middlesbrough should be a city in its own right.
People saw the area having a single identity as an important issue.
A total of 1,672 respondents (84%) said it was very important or quite important.
Asked about the areas people would include in the sub-region Middlesbrough (1,794 – 90.9%), Redcar & Cleveland (1,667 – 77.9%) and Stockton (1,537 – 77.9%) scored highly.
Hartlepool got 850 votes (43.1%), Darlington got 436 votes (22.1%) while Hambleton had 479 votes (24.3%).
The geographical make-up of Teesside was also questioned at last night’smeeting.
Paul Sheperia, founder of Middlesbrough software company Applaud, added: “I’ve always said I’m from Teesside – but I don’t see Darlington as part of the area.
“And areas such as Guisborough and Brotton, I feel they’re more part of Yorkshire.
“However, I feel more affinity with Hartlepool and Stockton.”
However Graham Robb, director of Darlington-based Recognition PR, said it was important the region retained all five local authority areas.
He added that many companies and organisations based in Darlington had strong links with the Teesside area – including the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries which is based in the town.
Maximising opportunities in Teesside’s key industrial areas was also championed last night.
James Robson, MD of Hartlepool chemical processing firm Exwold Technology, said organisations such as NOF and NEPIC were helping take the Teesside message around the globe.
The identity survey found 72% of people disagreed or strongly disagreed that Teesside was an old-fashioned and damaged brand.
Most people felt the name Tees Valley was a term only used by the public sector.
“Teesside is still a strong brand,” said Andy Hatton, technical director at Billingham-based Global Anodes.
“People identify with it, especially amongst the younger generation.”
Mr Arkley added: “People have got to feel that they belong to something.”
:: For more about the Evening Gazette’s Identity Crisis campaign log on to www.gazettelive.co.uk