The past few weeks have seen what Tees Valley Partnership Chair Alistair Arkley describes as "two of the most important demonstrations of how our area is recognising that our future depends on meeting the challenge of change - and working together".
That is how he sums up the significance of the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that the Tees Valley is to be one of the eight City Regions which he wants to drive forward the ambitious Northern Way programme for regenerating the whole of the North of England - and, just 24 hours later, the long awaited and hotly-debated rebranding of our airport under the new Durham Tees Valley name.
Says Alistair: "On the face of it you might think that these two events had little in common but in fact I believe they are both indicators of the growing strength of unity, purpose - and recognition - of the Tees Valley as the way forward for our future a and show that we really are delivering on the targets we have set ourselves.
"The launch of the Northern Way Growth Strategy is highly significant because it means that with our identification as a City Region we have the potential to put ourselves alongside the "Premier League" economic forces within the North of England, including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle.
"The challenge we now have to meet is demonstrating that we can show that we have the ideas, the energy, enthusiasm - and united commitment - to earn our place in the top division. I believe the signs are encouraging and that we will be able to grasp what is a tremendous opportunity.
"The Northern Way Strategy document is good news for the Tees Valley in a number of respects. In looking at the strengths of each City Region it clearly recognises the importance of the Tees Valley as a world-class centre for the chemical industry and the opportunities for major growth in 'new' industries such as digital and multi-media technology and the development of the 'hydrogen economy'.
"What we must ensure is that the Tees Valley is at the centre stage in these areas as the strategy is carried forward and that we benefit from investment in activities such as research development. For example, it is proposed that across the North there should be four new international-standard research centres and, with our two universities, the Wilton Centre and the Centre for Process for Innovation, we must have a strong case for being involved.
"Of course, one of the Tees Valley's other key economic 'drivers' is the port and here again the strategy holds out real opportunities for growth. It underlines the fact that Tees and Hartlepool, handling 54million tonnes of traffic last year, is the second biggest in the UK - and that the North-east exports more than other English region.
"The potential for expanding our ports - and indeed others in the North - is illustrated by one simple fact a 60 per cent of traffic going through ports in the South of England is destined for the North.
"A key to increasing business through our ports is improved access and the strategy points out that a major issue for Teesport is to enhance the rail links, including measures to enable the handling of the new wider containers which are set to dominate the shipping market within the next 20 years.
"Turning to airports, the strategy will, I am sure, make interesting reading for Peel Holdings, who recently announced proposals for the development of a new business park at Durham Tees Valley, directly reflecting the message in the strategy about the opportunities for creating new facilities - and new jobs - around airports. …