Getting involved in the Man of Steel project is a matter of industrial pride; it’s about showing what excellence this region can achieve, says engineering boss Vince Middleton.
“We know we have the capability right here to build this statue from start to finish. It’s a very difficult task, but local expertise can do it better than anyone else in the world,” adds the chairman of Rotherham-based Newburgh, which makes complex engineering components for the oil, gas, nuclear, aerospace and defence industries.
“Everything about this project is local and that is so important. I think it’s a crying shame the steel wall at Sheaf Square, which everyone sees as they enter and leave Sheffield Railway Station, was not made here.”
He hopes his company on Magna Way could play its part by working on the on-site assembly of the 30 metres high statue. “Though whatever part I can play, I am happy with,” says the man who has acted as a “facilitator” ever since sculptor Steve Mehdi first knocked on his office door with his idea.
“He presented me with this little block with a bronze of a man on it. The block represented a coal seam, the man the steel industry past and present. I thought the whole thing was dead right.
“To me, the statue has both a look of pride as it contemplates our great industrial past, and one of optimism for the future. Having an iconic, Angel of The North type of figure here to mark the area’s industrial heritage and future is something very important,” says the industrialist who opened his contacts book to Steve and took him to meet anyone he thought could be useful.
“There’s a close-knit group of industrialists in this area. We pull together and as I suspected, many of them wanted to get on-board. And the great thing about the private sector is it is full of people who look at things in an entrepreneurial way and are not afraid to make quick decisions and stick to them,” he adds.
“A century ago a group of very wealthy industrialists would have got behind a plan like this and funded it themselves. There are very few with that kind of money any more, but we have the same passion and drive and we are making it happen by pooling our skills and manpower.”