In a move to supercharge skills development across the Tees Valley and beyond, Middlesbrough College has appointed Gary Potts as its new vice principal for business, innovation and community partnerships.

A seasoned leader with over 22 years in further education, Gary brings a proven track record of forging strong industry partnerships and ensuring educational programs align with real-world needs.

Gary arrives from Northumberland College where he was Principal. His extensive experience also includes roles at Darlington College and the Education Training Collective.

“Education is about unlocking potential,” said Gary.

“We must empower people to develop their skills, confidence and talents, enabling them to seize opportunities and ultimately transforming lives and driving prosperity.”

Gary emphasised the crucial role of partnerships in equipping people with the skills employers seek.

He explained: “Skills are on everyone’s agenda – from the government to employers locally. They are the key to unlocking economic prosperity for Tees Valley but can also be a barrier if not addressed.

“Middlesbrough College Group is the largest provider of further education in the area. Everything we do changes someone’s life for the better. The chance to impact so many lives is what truly excites me about this role and my contribution to the future of the Tees Valley.”

Gary has first-hand experience of the importance of skills training. After leaving school, he embarked on a five-year tool-making apprenticeship in Newton Aycliffe.

Gary specialised in design engineering, where he honed his skills in designing press tooling and programming machinery. He was then an operations manager in the advanced manufacturing sector, gaining valuable experience in production control and inventory management.

This well-rounded background ultimately led Gary to Darlington College, where he began his further education career.

Zoe Lewis, Principal and CEO of Middlesbrough College Group, is thrilled to have Gary on board.

She said: “We are delighted to welcome Gary Potts to the Middlesbrough College Group’s senior leadership team. Candidates with his extensive experience, background and calibre are very hard to find.

“We are confident that his leadership will be instrumental in propelling Middlesbrough College to even greater heights as we continue to empower our students and fuel economic growth.”

A resident of the Tees Valley for the past 25 years, Gary brings a deep understanding of the region’s needs and aspirations. His passion is further fuelled by the College’s reach – serving over 15,000 students and boasting a significant apprenticeship program with 2,200 participants.

Gary said: “I’m so excited about coming into such a key role and to be able to really make a difference.  I am passionate about Tees Valley, and I am excited to join the College where, in partnership with employers and stakeholders, we can positively impact our communities through providing the skills to enable high-quality sustainable careers locally.”

GB Bank has appointed an experienced and accomplished senior banking figure as its new Chair.

Mark Sismey-Durrant joins the Middlesbrough-based bank after spending over 40 years in the UK banking sector, with the majority of that time spent in senior roles.

He replaces former GB Bank Chair, Mike Kirsopp, who has stepped away from the business to return to an executive career.

For 23 years, Mark operated as CEO at three fast growing UK banks, the last of these being Hampshire Trust Bank, where he led a private equity backed management buyout, restructured and scaled the business profitably, enabling it to raise growth capital of £100m.

Prior to that, Mark served as CEO at Sun Bank and then Heritable Bank where he executed diversification strategies in the specialist lending arena, secured Tier 1 & 2 capital, grew balance sheets to £1.3bn and generated pre-tax profits of £17m and £21m respectively.

Mark is an experienced board director and has served on the board of many banking and financial services companies, including his current Chair position at digital specialist, CashPlus Bank. He is also Senior Independent Director at PCF Bank.

Speaking about his appointment, Mark said: “I’m delighted to be joining GB Bank at such an exciting time for the business and I’m really looking forward to using my experience in specialist banking to help take GB Bank forward.

“The bank was founded with a commitment to serving communities which really makes it stand out and I’m looking forward to working with all of the GB Bank team as we take the business through the next stage of its development.

“There are lots of exciting opportunities in the market which we are looking to tap into as GB Bank matures and develops beyond its highly successful launch phase into an ambitious growth stage.”

GB Bank CEO and co-founder Stephen Lancaster said: “We are thrilled to have secured Mark’s services as Chair of GB Bank.

“His vast experience and expertise are fundamental for the business as we look to progress to the next stage of our development.

“We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Mike Kirsopp as he leaves us. Mike has been a valued and integral member of the team for almost three years, helping GB Bank in securing the full banking licence in August 2022, and the ongoing development of the business since then.

“We are incredibly grateful for Mike’s commitment to GB Bank and he leaves with our very best wishes as we welcome Mark as our new Chair.”

GB Bank is a community-focused bank which uses regional knowledge and passion to regenerate and build communities in areas that need it the most.

It provides SME property developers and investors with funding solutions up to £3m for residential and commercial developments in under-served regions across the UK.

Savers also benefit as the bank offers a no-nonsense range of fixed-term savings accounts with highly competitive rates, an easy on-line application process and peace of mind protection up to £85,000 by the FSCS.

Since securing its full banking licence in August 2022, GB Bank has approved over £73m worth of funding for more than 100 property and development projects across the country, including more than £16m on projects in the North-East.

Further information on GB Bank’s purpose and operations can be found at

A programme to enable hundreds more Tees Valley businesses to secure funding grow has been launched.  

Tees Valley Securing Investment connects companies with finance, funds and private investors and breaks down barriers accessing money.

It increases the range of funding on offer to businesses through an Investor Hub while firms can get one-to-one support or take part in workshops and online training to improve investment opportunities.

The scheme was launched at Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium on Thursday 15 February.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our businesses in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are some of the finest in the country.  

“Cutting bureaucracy and securing investment is at the heart of what we want to do. This will drive our ambition to bring good, well-paid jobs to local people and help our firms thrive.” 

Siobhan McArdle, Chair of the Tees Valley Business Board, said: “It is essential our SME community in particular can access the right types of financing they need to grow.

“This programme increases the range of funding on offer to businesses through an Investor Hub whilst, one-to-one support, workshops and online training and is focused on improving the success rate of across our business community in securing the investment they need to drive their business forwards, and so contribute to wider economic growth across the Tees Valley.”

Open to businesses and socially trading enterprises operating across the Tees Valley, Tees Valley Securing Investment is being delivered by innovation finance specialists and business support providers Innovation SuperNetwork, in partnership with Transmit Startups, CPI Enterprises & Edge Innovation.  

Yvonne Gale, Board Director at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “We know that businesses, especially start-ups and scale-ups, based outside of London and the South East find it harder to access the finance they need. To overcome this, we need more simplified and inclusive access to funding for businesses and entrepreneurs. Using our Investor Readiness Levels, we can help businesses understand how close they are to being able to approach investors, scope the landscape for a variety of funding sources and ensure they’re ready to secure the finance that is right for them.”

Dr Sophie Dale Black, Director, UK Network – North of England at British Business Bank, said: ‘’The British Business Bank has been providing funds and support to businesses in the Tees Valley via our Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund for a number of years.

“The region has some truly innovative businesses and a big opportunity to grow its economy by ensuring start-up and scale-up enterprises can access the funding they need. We’re delighted to support Tees Valley Securing Investment. A well-connected ecosystem improves funding readiness and access to finance for businesses and we’re committed to working in partnership on programmes like this one to ensure businesses can leverage support and funds.”   

The scheme has received £880,000 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) as part of the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority’s UKSPF programme of support.

To find out more, go to:

Middlesbrough has been highlighted as a European hotspot for business investment potential.

The town has retained its place in the 2024/25 Financial Times’ European Cities and Regions of the Future report. Middlesbrough was named sixth best ‘small city’ for its foreign direct investment (FDI) strategy.

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke said the ranking was a boost to businesses of all sizes and sectors as he praised the companies flying the flag for the town.

“We have firms based here doing extraordinary things on a global scale and this ranking is another feather in our cap,” Mayor Cooke said.

“This speaks volumes about the Council’s economic growth team and our local businesses. As ever, Middlesbrough is a place of resilience and innovation and working together we will thrive.

“The companies that are winning new investment and creating jobs of all kinds are helping to support local families and make Middlesbrough a better place to live and do business.

“I want to build a healthier, safer and more ambitious Middlesbrough and recognition like this for our local economy provides plenty of optimism for the future.”

Data on economic potential, the local workforce and lifestyle, cost effectiveness, connectivity and business friendliness was assessed alongside a submission from Middlesbrough Council on its FDI strategy.

The submission highlighted recent success stories including the games studio formerly known as Sock Monkey, which became part of the Behaviour group after acquisition by the Canadian developer behind top hits including Dead by Daylight.

Behaviour UK General Manager Bob Makin said: “We were incredibly excited to become part of Canadian game developer Behaviour Interactive. 

“One of the main attractions was their excitement for giving back to the areas that the studios are based in, not only through creating highly skilled jobs and heavily investing into the offices and technology of the studios, but giving back through philanthropic efforts, educational support and promoting the area on a global scale.”

Middlesbrough Council supported the company’s relocation when it expanded in advance of the buyout by Behaviour.

The submission also celebrated growth of companies including homegrown gaming agency Double Eleven and booming engineering firm Paralloy.

Middlesbrough was first recognised in the Financial Times’ fDi supplement in 2019.

Middlesbrough’s home to independent retailers has hit the year running with a new look and two new traders. 

ASB Football Shirts and Ezzy May’s Little Boutique have joined the unique collection of businesses at the historic Dundas Indoor Market where you can buy everything from your Sunday beef to Himalayan crystals.  

Its private owner has made a big investment in fresh branding and signage and one of the new traders – Mark Bythway of ASB Football Shirts – said he decided to start his business there because “it’s at the heart of Teesside, bang in the middle of the town.”

He added: “There’s a thriving market in vintage football shirts and this means people from Teesside will no longer have to travel to Newcastle, Manchester or London.”

Mark has given up his job as hospital sales and marketing manager to pursue a new career as an independent retailer and said: “It’s the realisation of a dream for me. It’s something I’ve thought about for a very long time.”

The arrival of his business and Ezzy May’s Little Boutique, which sells clothes for children and adults as well as bespoke gifts, comes just after the completion of a major extension to Jean’s Kitchen. The café is the cornerstone of the Dundas Indoor Market and its owner Jean Hall has provided hungry Teesside shoppers with wholesome meals for nearly a quarter of a century.

Nicole Bean – who opened the Alta Ego shop in 2017 – has grown her business as well, launching a sister store called Altanative, which is already proving to be very popular with customers. 

The Indoor Market is part of the Dundas Shopping Centre which has also seen big changes in its appearance and its offer. 

The Orchard Café – which closed last year – has reopened under a new owner who has re-employed the former staff. 

The café sits above the Brickyard Bakery. It started trading in November, selling great tasting artisan bread, baked on the premises.  The bakery is also providing life-changing opportunities for six interns. 

David Harris, the Manager of the Indoor Market, said: “I believe the independent retail sector – with its broad range of businesses offering unique products and services – is pointing the way forward for the town centre.   

“Middlesbrough has lost loads of big retailers in the last few years and we’re unlikely to see like for like replacements.  Internet shopping has probably paid a big role in their decline.  Ironically, although the majority of our independent traders start out online, they need the space and support we provide to take the next steps to grow.”

All Dundas market traders benefit from an all-inclusive deal which means their rent covers the cost of their energy as well as business rates and fibre broadband.  

The price of a unit starts as low as £75 per week to help new tenants get their businesses up and running through the make-or-break early months. 

Multisec®, a UK-based leader in the design and manufacture of lifting and spreader beams, proudly announces its 1600 Tonne Monopile Beam—a testament to the company’s commitment to innovation and excellence in heavy lifting solutions.

This cutting-edge beam offers lifting centres at an impressive 32 meters and carries a working load limit of 1600 tonnes. This project was turned around in under two months. The beam comprises two 2-meter end units with drop links and a combination of three 8-meter struts and one 4-meter strut, summing up to an approximate weight of 31,463 kg. The beam’s impressive specifications, coupled with its eye-catching Multisec’s bright pink colour, make it not only a functional masterpiece but also a symbol of modern engineering excellence.

This project represents Multisec’s most ambitious achievement to date in terms of both length and lifting capacity. Wan Djawad, Technical Director at Multisec®, expressed his enthusiasm for this remarkable achievement, stating, “The successful delivery of our 1600 Tonne Monopile Spreader Beam is a strong testament to our capabilities as a leading spreader beam manufacturer.”

With the demand for high-capacity lifting equipment on the rise, Wan Djawad affirmed, “I’m looking forward to building on the success of this project and continuing to produce high-quality lifting solutions for our customers both in the UK and overseas.”

Multisec® remains steadfast in its commitment to providing innovative solutions that empower businesses to confidently tackle their most challenging projects. The company’s passion for innovation and dedication to excellence are evident in this project, showcasing its ability to deliver effective solutions for complex and demanding projects.

Amanda Gardiner, Managing Director at Multisec®, also commented on this achievement, stating, “The 1600 Tonne Monopile Beam showcases our unwavering commitment to offshore wind, increased loadings, and our innovative approach to continually push boundaries.”

This latest achievement by Multisec® reflects its future direction, defined by a continuous pursuit of excellence and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in heavy lifting. As the industry evolves, Multisec® remains at the forefront, ready to meet the future with innovative solutions.

For more information on Multisec, visit their website.

A new programme to connect Tees Valley businesses to vital supply chain opportunities has been launched.

Tees Valley Supply Chain is delivered by RTC North on behalf of the Tees Valley Mayor, Combined Authority, and the Tees Valley Business Board.

It will offer personalised support from advisors and specialists to help firms address supply chain challenges and is available to all businesses based in Tees Valley.

Its aim is to offer fully funded support to help businesses diversify, grow and so successfully bid for the emerging supply chain opportunities across the region.

Businesses can access workshops, networking and events, alongside industry visits and an online exchange portal, where supply chain opportunities will be published.

The support programme is being fully funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It is clear that we have global-leading firms right here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“It is therefore vital that with this investment coming we enable our fantastic local businesses to access these opportunities to grow. This is exactly what the Tees Valley Supply Chain will do – provide the ideal way of getting our lifeblood businesses more of the support, contacts and knowhow they need to thrive.”

Siobhan McArdle, chair of the Tees Valley Business Board, said: “Global companies are choosing to do business in Tees Valley and we want to make sure local firms have the capability, capacity and resilience to take advantage of the supply chain opportunities being created across our region. 

“This programme will offer a connected approach, giving direct access to supply chain contracts and I would encourage all businesses to sign up and engage with this important programme.”

A spokesperson for RTC North said: “RTC North has a strong track record in the successful delivery of Supply Chain focused programmes, enabling both service and manufacturers to access the wider sector opportunities on offer.

“Our team of specialist advisors, have a wealth of knowledge and contacts across a variety of sectors, and are ready to assess and improve the Supply Chain readiness of Tees Valley businesses.”

Visit here to find out more.

Teesside stainless steel specialist Paralloy has won a top UK industry award – its fourth in just over six months. 

The company was recognised for its Business Growth and Strategy at the prestigious Make UK Manufacturing Awards during a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. 

Paralloy Ltd had already been named the winner of the Yorkshire North East and Humber Award by Make UK – The Manufacturers’ Organisation – and beat off competition from other regional winners to claim the national title.

In November the company had received another top award for International Trade at The Manufacturer’s MX Awards and a few months earlier it was named High Growth Markets Exporter of the Year at the UMi Northern Powerhouse Export Awards. 

Paralloy’s Chief Executive Officer Robert McGowan said: “To receive the Make UK award in such a famous and historic setting as St Paul’s Cathedral was the icing on the cake.  It’s always satisfying to receive recognition and these awards mark the culmination of a lot of hard work by everybody involved in the business.

He added: “We are very proud of what we have achieved but we have no intention of resting on our laurels.  We have big ambitions for this business and we’ve only just started.”

Since 2020 Paralloy – when Paralloy was acquired from a large corporate group – the company has invested millions of pounds in buildings, equipment and staff. It has added a new and growing facility at TeesAMP in Middlesbrough to its operations in Sheffield and Billingham, where it has also expanded to a second site. It, amongst other things, will house Paralloy’s new training centre. 

The company now has in excess of 500 employees – more than double the number of four years ago – and is still recruiting for a range of roles. It has customers in more than 40 countries and over 90% of its business is overseas. This year’s turnover is likely to be its biggest yet and there is a full order book. 

Paralloy invents and manufactures specialist stainless steel and nickel alloy products for the petrochemical and power generation industries as well as turbines to power ships and aircraft. 

Raw materials are melted at more than 1600 degrees Celsius at its foundry in Billingham. They are then cast, machined and fabricated into complex parts and assemblies which are shipped all over the world. 

Paralloy’s products are being used in some of the world’s biggest infrastructure projects in Europe, North America and the Middle East and have been designed to help its customers dramatically reduce their carbon footprints.  Paralloy says it will be carbon neutral by 2035.

Middlesbrough has been named the country’s best value place for workers to rent.

Research by jobs site Adzuna looked at data on average salaries and rental costs around the UK.

It found that rent in Middlesbrough accounted for just one-fifth (20.7%) of the average worker’s payslip.

Average take-home pay after rent in Middlesbrough is the highest in the country at £1,738.

Cllr Theo Furness, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for Regeneration, said: “This research is beneficial for businesses as it allows them to show potential employees how far their money will go.

“These messages are really positive for recruitment and retention of staff which is an increasingly competitive area.

“The analysis is also useful for us as a town as we look to secure more investment and entice more firms to base themselves here.”

Alongside its affordability, Middlesbrough boasts strong travel connectivity with improving air and rail links and established road and port access.

The town is on the edge of stunning countryside and close to sought-after coastal towns.

Adzuna’s research also found that Middlesbrough was the only place assessed where wage growth (+13.4%) has outpaced rent increases (+7.8%) over the past year.

Sunderland, Bradford, Belfast and Preston made up the top five best value places.

The Office for National Statistics has previously classed renting as affordable if it costs the equivalent of 30% or less of a person’s income.

Adzuna analysed its own data on average salaries across one million vacancies in November 2023 and compared them to the average rental prices shown on Zoopla.

Durham Lifting, a renowned name in the lifting solutions industry, has reached a historic milestone with Amanda and Paul Gardiner, boasting a collective experience of 70 years, taking full ownership of the business. This 100% acquisition marks a generational shift in leadership, solidifying the Gardiners’ dedication to propelling Durham Lifting to unprecedented heights of innovation and service.

Paul Gardiner, a qualified Design Engineer with expertise in technical aspects and visionary business development, has been instrumental in driving Durham Lifting’s technological edge. His proficiency in proof load testing, installation, and design has not only ensured the company’s continued success but has also set industry benchmarks. Paul’s foresight and commitment to excellence have been key drivers in positioning Durham Lifting as a leader in the lifting solutions market.

Amanda Gardiner’s 35-year tenure at the helm of Durham Lifting has seen the company achieve a multi-million-pound turnover and launch the international brand Multisec® in 2020. Multisec’s globally acclaimed products, manufactured in the Northeast of England, underscore Amanda’s foresight and the collective effort of the Durham Lifting team.

Amanda Gardiner expressed her pride, stating, “Taking full ownership of Durham Lifting is a proud moment for us, and we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. We’re ready to lead Durham Lifting into a future filled with innovation, growth, and continued success.”

Paul Gardiner also shared his enthusiasm for the new chapter, “with a bright future ahead, we are dedicated to building a team with the technical ability to support the growth of the lifting equipment industry to meet future challenges”.

The recent investment in a 3000-tonne testing machine and the expansion of testing facilities are pivotal components of Durham Lifting’s growth strategy and positions the company to tackle more significant and challenging projects, enhancing its portfolio and reputation in the market.

In essence, the expansion of Durham Lifting’s testing facilities under the Gardiner family ownership signals the company’s upward trajectory, shaping it not just as a business success story but as a pioneering force in the lifting industry. The Gardiners’ families journey stands as a beacon of entrepreneurial spirit and visionary leadership, inspiring not just their team but the entire industry.

Amanda reflects on their journey, stating, “Our story is proof that with the right vision and dedication, any goal is attainable. We hope to inspire not just our team but the entire industry.”

Durham Lifting’s motto, “We do it right” perfectly encapsulates their ethos, and with plans for further growth and investment, the company is poised for even greater heights. This promises not only success for Durham Lifting but also a lasting impact on the lifting industry.

For more information about Durham Lifting, please visit: