By Sarah Downing on 08 February 2017
THEY went to Westminster with the pledge that the Humber is ready to put the power in the Northern Powerhouse, and returned with ringing endorsements from the top of Government.
THE Humber is central to the UK’s mission to remain the world leader in offshore wind, and the momentum is there to aid the nation’s relentless drive to succeed. They were the resounding messages from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy as both the Secretary of State and Energy Minister converged on a high profile Westminster reception hosted for the region.
Hosted by the Humber LEP, supported by Bondholders, this special ‘Humber-on-the-Thames’ event at the House of Commons allowed business and civic ambassadors to clearly underline the region’s role. Rubbing shoulders with key politicians and Northern Powerhouse leaders, there was a strong show of unity that created a real buzz of engagement.
The event’s sponsor, Martin Vickers – a champion of the Humber and Cleethorpes and Immingham MP, had earlier in the day made a pressing the point about the estuary’s strengths in the Commons.
Welcoming nearly 80 guests, with strong representation from major employers on both banks, Mr Vickers said: “The Humber is absolutely essential to not only the local and regional economy, but the national economy.” He reeled off the Energy Estuary’s vital statistics, covering wind, biomass, gas, oil and coal, with the role of the ports central to it all.
Joined by Greg Clark and Nick Hurd, the first minister to speak was the Humber’s own Andrew Percy, in his role as Minister for the Northern Powerhouse. He underlined past political difficulties and praised the strides made. “Five or six years ago it was quite hard to get a lot of people from both sides of the Humber in the same room or even the same town. This is a demonstration of how well all the people in this room and many others outside have done in bringing together a vision around the Humber of this Energy Estuary which I think can be at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy which we launched last week. That cross-Humber working is in the interests of residents on both sides so I say a huge thank you to everybody who is involved in it.
Mr Percy continued: “We have got to make sure whatever happens in terms of Brexit, in terms of Industrial Strategy, differences in where people go in devolution, that we continue that cross Humber working as it is having a demonstrable impact on the peoples of the Humber; in terms of jobs, growth, personal wealth and all the rest of it.”
The likes of Dong Energy, Siemens, Associated British Ports, RB, BP, Phillips 66, Total Lindsey Oil Refinery and Humberside Airport were all represented by senior figures, as well as the local authorities and organisations including Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, Team Humber Marine Alliance and HCF Catch.
Sewell Group managing director Paul Sewell has lived and breathed the Humber all of his life. The Hull businessman who heads up the 400-employee company, said: “The Energy Estuary is about our area getting a renewed state of being. Since the loss of the fishing industry we have not had the reason for being, now that state of being is definitely the Energy Estuary. What we have seen today is a good example of that right, that being, right across the Humber.”
Slightly newer to the Humber concept, Benj Sykes, vice president of Dong Energy, head of asset management and UK country manager, said: “This reception is excellent and what we need to see. The Humber Estuary is really taking off, it is a major hub of established offshore wind investment and it is great to show what is going on to a Westminster audience. There is a lot going on, and not just in our sector, but across various different parts of industry. We have recently had the Industrial Strategy announcement so this is a prime time to be showing what is possible and what has been done.”
Dong is committed to a £6 billion Humber investment with five wind farms currently in operational, construction and development stages.
Greg Clark, made Secretary of State by Prime Minister Theresa May was also in attendance was keen to highlight the Humber’s virtues to the room, when launching the Industrial Strategy last week. He said: “The Humber is an area of the country with real momentum about it. Many people are seeing Hull, the north and south banks, for the first time, and there is a big opportunity and it is great to get this interest and excitement.”
Mr Clark continued: “There is huge enthusiasm for what more can be done in the future,” he said. “I am a huge fan of the Humber, I am regularly invited by my colleagues and I will come back. To be showing off your wares to colleagues here in Parliament is a fantastic thing to do, there cannot be many of my colleagues in the Chamber unaware of brilliant success of Hull and Humber. To have you here, to meet them and introduce them to what you are doing, is to be applauded.”
Guests were shown a video of the Humber's offer, not just focusing on energy, but on investments from food to pharmaceuticals, with marketing organisation Bondholders behind it.
Mr Clark’s colleague in the merged ‘BEIS’ department, Nick Hurd, actually referenced the Energy Estuary moniker, coined by the Bondholders, saying: “It is hugely heartening and very important for us to have such a delegation here from the Humber. We are the world’s largest market in offshore wind, and it is due, in a large part, to the momentum, the energy of the businesses in the Energy Estuary. We have got a fantastic opportunity to make sure the UK continues to lead, to make sure the UK offshore wind industry is internationally competitive and going to be a source of good jobs in the future.”
He added: “There is still a long way to go in terms of helping to create these crucial opportunities to drive local supply chain, and through the Industrial Strategy we have made it very clear we are committed to pushing on further. We have got the challenge to continue being the best in the world, the Humber is centrally positioned to support offshore wind, to allow it to flourish, and we need to continue, to be relentless in keeping that going. “
UK Northern Powerhouse director Martin Venning was impressed with the incredibly strong ambassadors for the Humber. He was delighted to see the passion on display, particularly with its critical mass of business leaders joining with the public sector officials.
One of the aims of the Westminster reception was to underline the role the region has to play in the Northern Powerhouse, and it wasn’t lost on the Leeds-based representative of the international conference and exhibition arm of the economic rebalancing strategy. He said: “It has been very encouraging. One of the things we have to be really clear about is that the message is good, and it needs some really good sales now. When you have a good product you need a good sales team to get it out there. The expertise in the room, if it can be harnessed, is very powerful.”
Leading for the private sector was Grimsby solicitor Stephen Savage, now vice chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership. He said: “The Humber is an incredibly valuable region in relation to the UK industrial strategy. We feel it has been really necessary to bring the Humber together as a region. We have the strains of devolution, we have the strains of Brexit and I think all this (the reception) is proving that professional services and industry in the Humber region feel it is a decisive time or the Humber. The Humber has had the benefit of real, substantial investment in the last three to four years, particularly in the renewable energy sector.”
Mr Savage continued: “We have had tremendous involvement from Dong Energy and Siemens, and while impossible to mention everyone, we are grateful too to ABP for the enhancements of port facilities. The Humber is very much a private/public sector success story with investment from companies and plans for the future we think we can go from strength to strength. It really is the UK’s Energy Estuary. Sing from the rooftops about the excellence of the region!”
Simon Brett, head of projects for the Humber at ABP, said: “It is great to see members of all sectors of the largest Energy Estuary; ports, refineries, wind, biomass, all represented. From ABP’s point of view it is heartening that we have associations with all sectors, and we are pleased to be able to provide new facilities for all of these sectors over the last 10 to 15 years, and look forward to continuing our association with the energy industry and making sure we invest more over the next decade.”
Mr Brett was clear on what was required from those in power at the host venue too. “The biggest thing the area needs is continued investment in transport infrastructure, particularly on the North Bank of the Humber with the A63,” he said. “We also need to continue pressuring the Government on (rail) electrification.”
For Beverley-born Darren Cunningham, it was a first major public appointment for him having recently returned to Phillips 66’s Humber Refinery at South Killingholme as general manager. He said: “I am delighted to be back in the Humber region, at the Humber Refinery, as lead executive for the UK. An important part of my role is to promote the region, we are proud to be in the region and it is good to collaborate with other businesses and promote the region meaningfully.”
Chris Bowlas, director of strategy and transformation at BP, said: “I was very pleased to see so many people representing the Humber. The Humber Estuary has all the building blocks for a really, really successful future. We have biofuel, biomass, wind energy, and energy intensive users, every element from supply to usage and the technology too to back it up. I think we have a fantastic future.
“The challenge is getting out that message, and hopefully with the reception we have done that.”
Collaboration being the message of the day, the core organisations including the Humber LEP, Bondholders, The Chamber of Commerce and THMA all pledged to continue to work together in partnership to leverage opportunities for the region.
During the event, Bondholders and the Humber LEP launced thehumber.com. This site is of key importance in order to provide a singular platform in which to project the strength of our industry sectors, expertise, global connectivity and trading as well as our rich Enterprise Zones and available sites and premises.
Thehumber.com will become the place for inward investment enquiries and seeks to actively engage professionals, those travelling here on business, regional business and the media alike.
In summary, Bondholder Chair Anita Pace said: “I’m extremely keen for Bondholders not only to continue on our successful journey, supporting and uniting Humber businesses, but also to play a proactive role in helping to exploit every opportunity that we now have. No other region has the assets that we have and at a time when all eyes are on our region, it is imperative that we have a powerful, united voice.”
With thanks to Dave Laister for supporting words: @Humberbized www.humberbusiness.com