Hi-tech firm ready for blast-off

STEPHEN PULLINGER The shadow of Nelson's monument is a reminder of Yarmouth's glorious past as a port, while the mix of shabby buildings and redundant sites evokes an end-of-era feeling for the offshore gas industry.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The shadow of Nelson's monument is a reminder of Yarmouth's glorious past as a port, while the mix of shabby buildings and redundant sites evokes an end-of-era feeling for the offshore gas industry.

But industry minister Margaret Hodge yesterday discovered that the South Denes peninsula, so often viewed as an embodiment of the town's decline, is home to a hi-tech company ready for take-off - into space.

As she toured the workshops of C-Mac in a special suit and face mask needed to protect delicate microcircuits from dust, she learned how the company had just crossed an important barrier to opening up the lucrative American aviation and space satellite markets.

Chief executive Indro Mukerjee proudly told her C-Mac was one of only 13 companies worldwide, and the only one in Europe, to achieve what is known as class K accreditation.

The performance specification, only achieved after a week-long visit by six US officials carrying out stringent checks, leaves C-Mac poised to build on existing contracts across the Atlantic, supplying electronic microcircuit equipment for multi-million-pound aircraft and space satellites.

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Mrs Hodge, who visited the company with local MP Tony Wright, who started his working life as an apprentice on the site, said: “I congratulate C-Mac whose achievement illustrates something I am already well aware of, that British manufacturing at this high, value-added specification is a real success story.

“There might be few people making widgets these days, but there are plenty who are involved in the design of cutting-edge technology products.”

She praised C-Mac's success in breaking into the US defence market - something very difficult for British companies to achieve because of the tough barriers put in the way.

Mr Mukerjee told the minister: “We currently employ 300 people in Yarmouth and will be aiming to turn our class K accreditation into work for more people.

“We are already enjoying double-digit growth annually, which is quite unusual in this industry, and it is our intention to expand further.”

He said C-Mac, established in 1943, already gave local youngsters the opportunity of finding work “at the highest end of technology on their doorstep”.

Mr Wright said it was fantastic to see a “world-beating” company flying the flag for Yarmouth, more often talked about for its regeneration needs.

Prestigious projects with which C-Mac is involved include the Typhoon Eurofighter and Airbus A380. It is renowned as a world leader in the design and manufacture of high- reliability electronics systems for harsh environments such as space.

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