December 13 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 14, 2013
A long-established north Norfolk manufacturing business has bought the empty Cromer Crab Company factory site and will be moving in next year.
Structure-flex, currently based in Melton Constable, plans to relocate to the Holt Road, Cromer, building in August, following a major refit.
The announcement has been hailed as good news by Cromer Mayor David Pritchard, ending more than a year of uncertainty over the future of the abandoned factory which closed in August last year with the loss of 230 jobs, despite a hard-fought local campaign to keep it open.
Ian Doughty, director of Structure-flex, said the firm employed about 80 people who would all be moving to the 4,500 sq m Cromer factory.
Although there was no immediate prospect of new jobs, he hoped improved facilities would help the 43-year-old business’s competitiveness which, in time, could lead to expansion. Structure-flex specialises in manufacturing high frequency welded big bags, lorry curtains, crane test bags and liquid tanks.
The firm’s 10-year lease on its Peacock Way industrial estate base in Melton Constable ends next year and Mr Doughty, 61, said they had been looking for alternative premises for the past 18 months.
“One of the difficulties of looking in north Norfolk is that there aren’t too many buildings of 4,500 sq m about,” he added.
“Cromer is slightly bigger than where we are now, but the key benefits are its age, condition, location and layout, which are all very good for us.”
The firm has appointed Bidwells, in Norwich, to project-manage the redevelopment of the former seafood processing factory and it is due to be completed by June.
It will involve ripping out refrigeration equipment and chiller boxes, relaying a single-level floor and insulating and skinning the building.
“It will look brand new by the time we move in,” said Mr Doughty.
“It’s always good for a town if a prominent site looks smart and is in use. It was a major blow when it was announced that the factory was not able to continue production.”
Throughout the redevelopment phase, the site will be kept tidy and a board bearing an artist’s impression of the finished building will be mounted outside.
“We want to make sure we maintain the right image from the start,” Mr Doughty added.
He did not think quitting Melton Constable would have a negative impact on the community as only one or two of the employees lived there and they would be working at the new Cromer factory. There had already been inquiries from prospective new tenants of the Melton Constable site.
Mr Pritchard said: “No-one likes empty buildings and the Cromer Crab factory has been disused for more than a year. This is great news for Cromer. I regard Structure-flex as one of Norfolk’s ‘blue chip’ companies and when you get a good name coming in it can attract other businesses.”
Structure-flex, with an annual sales turnover of £10m, scooped its first Queen’s award in April after recording a 277pc surge in overseas sales.
It trades in North and South America, the Far East, Middle East, Europe and Australia. The firm was founded in Sheringham in 1970 by David Frankel and has since moved around north Norfolk.
Mr Doughty joined the company in 1988 when it was located in Grove Lane, Holt.
It has also previously had bases in Aylsham, Cromer and, at one time, in the Czech Republic.
It was bought by Mr Doughty in 1992 and now belongs to his family’s holding company, Resolute Corporate Holdings, which includes his wife Tricia and their children Kate and Matthew. Mr Doughty is currently chairman of the North Norfolk Business Forum.
Two hundred jobs are set to be created after one of west Norfolk’s largest businesses was granted permission to expand its King’s Lynn facilities.