Recently installed Master Cutler Tony Pedder has had a passion for manufacturing since he was growing up in Lincolnshire, not far from Corby steelworks.
Born in the East End of London, the son of an Army major, Mr Pedder spent his youth in Stamford after his father became the principal of a school for disabled children there.
He returned south to study mathematics at London University, before gaining a Masters degree in Operational Research and Management Studies and then seeking a job in manufacturing.
Back in 1972, graduate jobs in manufacturing were few and far between, so he began training to be an actuary, but, after six months British Steel offered him the job he had been seeking and he started working at its head office for its statistics, support, supplies and transport business.
In 12 years, Mr Pedder rose to become director of supplies and transport, with a £3 billion budget to spend on buying iron ore, scrap and alloys and arranging its shipping, among other things.
During that time Tony Pedder came to the notice of Sheffield-born steelman Bob Scholey.
“I was a relatively young man. He took me under his wing and loaded me up with more and more responsibility,” Tony Pedder recalls.
“I’m a bit of a workaholic,” he admits. “I just love business. I love working – it’s almost a hobby. It’s challenging, you’ve got problems to solve, there is innovation, creating things, trying to make things work better.
“Bob took a real punt on me. I had grown up in supplies and transport and one day he said: ‘You had better get some slag on your boots. I want you to run the stainless business’.”
When Tony Pedder arrived in Sheffield to run Shepcote Lane-based British Steel Stainless – now part of Finnish firm Outokumpu – the business had been struggling for some time.
Mr Pedder is typically understated about his role in turning the business around.
“The markets came to our rescue,” he says. “We bucked up productivity, increased throughput and made stainless a very profitable business.”
A job running British Steel’s biggest business, the 20,000-employee General Steels operation, followed, before an international role that included looking after operations in Holland for what had by then become Corus, following the merger of British Steel with Dutch steelmaker Hoogovens.
Then, in 2001, Mr Pedder was appointed chief executive of the whole of the Corus group.
Recalling his days buying iron ore, Mr Pedder started merger talks with the Brazilian steel group CSN, which owned major iron ore mining and processing operations.
“The idea I had was to be able to control the raw materials side and iron ore processing by backwardly integrating with CSN, which had wonderful iron ore mines,” says Mr Pedder.
Sadly, the idea was ahead of its time and led to the start of a disagreement with the Corus board.
“The board didn’t agree with some of the things I believed in and I ended up retiring at 53.
“It was a bitter sweet experience. I’m really proud of what I had achieved and felt I could have achieved a lot more,” says Mr Pedder.
Others thought the same. In a comparatively short time, Mr Pedder was back in steel, this time as Sheffield Forgemasters’ chairman, and had been asked to take on what has become the first of roles of benefit to the Sheffield region, at regeneration agency Renaissance South Yorkshire.