June 1, 2020
Middlesbrough courses through Geoff Hogg’s veins like the River Tees runs through the heart of the town’s commercial environment.
Winding around its northern edges after tracking more than 80 miles eastwards from the North Pennines, the historic trading artery was a crucial conduit during the boom periods of shipbuilding and bridge making, and the true heydays of iron and steel production.
Though those eras are now bygone, the waterway remains a major contributor to the business landscape and economy, thanks to Teesport’s position as a global trade magnet and accompanying waterside firms’ use of the route to maintain market links.
Someone else making their own contribution to Middlesbrough’s – and the wider Tees Valley’s – commercial environment is Geoff, with his impact coming from another channel; regeneration.
As founder and director of Cleveland Property Investments, he is overseeing the creation of Middlesbrough’s £55 million Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park, alongside Middlesbrough Council and Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).
An 11-hectare development based on the former Newport Ironworks – and set right beside the River Tees’ flowing waters – the estate boasts high-quality space for growing advanced manufacturing companies.
Built using hundreds of tonnes of steel from British Steel’s nearby Lackenby base, it will, says Geoff, provide much-needed facilities for like-minded businesses to drive forward Tees Valley’s economy and deliver highly-skilled and well-paid jobs.
Funded by £12.5 million from Middlesbrough Council, £7.65 million from TVCA and £2.3 million from the SSI Taskforce – set up to catalyse regeneration work after the closure of Redcar’s SSI UK steelworks – the venture is also backed by substantial private investment.
And, says Geoff, it is proving extremely popular, with as much as 70 per cent of space in the park’s 180,000sq ft first phase now going through the legal process towards completion and handover.
Such has been the extent of interest – despite the coronavirus outbreak – that Geoff reveals bosses are now looking at designs for the park’s second phase, which will cover 100,000sq ft.
“The lettings are going really well; we have quite a lot of deals in the offing,” says Geoff, whose commitment to local labour means a high percentage of Tees Valley construction workers have supported the site’s creation.
“We have tenants and have also agreed three or four deals while the coronavirus pandemic has been going on.
“There is a lack of industrial space across the UK, but particularly a massive shortage of advanced manufacturing units.
“This development is filling that demand and bringing good quality, highly-paid jobs to the area too.
He continues: “The old Newport Ironworks site hadn’t been developed for 60 or 70 years; people had been put off about the prospect of what they might find there.
“But, because of the partnership we have with the council and TVCA, we worked through it all.
“We got a business plan together, drove it forward and have achieved what we set out to do.”
Using the example of car parts maker Nifco UK, which swapped an old factory on Stockton’s Yarm Road for a purpose-built facility on Eaglescliffe’s Durham Lane – which it subsequently extended with another plant – Geoff says it is imperative that firms have space to flourish.
“Before Nifco went to Eaglescliffe, it was in a smaller unit,” he says.
“But when it moved, it grew into a huge, fantastic business because it had the correct environment.
“If you give companies the buildings that enable them to grow, you are giving them a platform to expand.
“That is what we are doing, and we want to get these companies into Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park.”
As well as nourishing firms’ desire to grow and succeed, Geoff says the development is also playing a crucial role in the area’s overall resurgence.
Spearheaded by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s commitment to reviving Teesside International Airport and transforming the former SSI UK site into a thriving business hub, the renaissance to which Geoff alludes also includes a £250 million project driven by Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston to create a 2000-job digital campus in the town.
“There is massive momentum in the Tees Valley,” says Geoff.
“I’m born and bred in Middlesbrough and have never known development and momentum like we currently have.
“Ben and Andy are really pushing hard to deliver for the Tees Valley and for Middlesbrough, and people are buying into their vision.”
Geoff, of course, is adding his contribution too, and his role is primed to increase further thanks to the recent launch of Chaloner Group, which will oversee projects nationally across residential, industrial and office schemes.
However, Geoff says it will nurture Teesside too, saying it could bring tens of millions of pounds of fresh investment to the area.
He says: “We are in negotiations at the moment, which will bring circa £80 million investment into the Tees Valley – we are close to agreeing them. “I’m excited that we are branching out; my passion is Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley but there are options further afield too and we cannot pass them up.
“We are looking to go into different markets; we have an offer out on a project in Newcastle city centre and another in Leeds, which has been accepted but hasn’t completed.
“There is lots in the pipeline,” adds Geoff.
“If all of the offers we have put in are accepted, there is probably ten years’ work in the development pipeline.”