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Respected regional business leader Andrew Hodgson has been appointed the new chair of the North East LEP.

The chief executive of Tyneside-based Soil Machine Dynamics Limited (SMD) was elected chair at the LEP board meeting to succeed Paul Woolston, who stood down after five years at the helm of the organisation.

Andrew is a highly-respected leader in the subsea engineering industry, a recipient of three Queen’s Awards for Industry.

He is a former North East Business Executive of the Year, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, EEF’s UK Manufacturing Champion and was awarded an OBE for his work in Manufacturing and the North East economy.

SMD is recognised as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of remote intervention equipment, operating in some of the planet’s most hazardous environments.

Andrew’s appointment has been welcomed by the private and public sectors.

Andrew said: “It is a privilege to have the opportunity as the new North East LEP Chair to work with the public and private sectors to help grow the regional economy.

“The foundations are in place for this growth to continue thanks to the work of Paul Woolston and the team at the LEP in securing £1.5bn in funding to fuel new business growth and job creation.

“With all the opportunities that the devolution of powers from central Government will present the North East economy, we face a once in a generation opportunity to really transform our region. We must also ensure that the current momentum is not lost as we establish what devolution means to us.

“I’ve spent my career growing world class businesses both here in the North East and internationally. I will use my knowledge and that of the LEP board to create more and better jobs. We will make investments into the regional economy that will stimulate growth and allow us to seize these new opportunities.”

James Ramsbotham, North East Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, said: “Andrew is a world-class business leader and his appointment as LEP Chair will ensure that business and its priorities are at the very heart of the LEP’s activities.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director of the CBI, said: “Andrew’s appointment is excellent news for the region at a time when strong leadership and proven business acumen are needed to ensure we maximise the opportunities devolution presents us.”

Simon Hanson, Development Manager of FSB, said: “Paul Woolston did an outstanding job for the North East. The FSB is delighted that Andrew has stepped up to follow in his footsteps and continue to do the North East proud.”

Councillor Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority and Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Paul Woolston has created a strong foundation for the North East economy to grow and I wholeheartedly support Andrew’s appointment to lead the LEP through the next phase. He has a deep understanding of the North East LEP from his time as vice-chair and is ideally placed to take the organisation forward.”

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